So what’s a competitive analysis for support?

Having convinced you that support competitive analyses are worthwhile I guess I should say a few words about what would constitute a solid competitive analysis for support.

1. Identify likely targets

Clearly you want to include your competitors in the survey but don’t stop there: your customers will naturally compare your offerings with others’ they do business with. So if your customers typically use a particular database vendor, include it in the survey.

2. Don’t be exhaustive

I have done competitive analyses with 15 targets and let me tell you, we did not learn very much beyond target 6 or 7. Support offerings are not terribly creative, in case you did not know, so you don’t have to consider every potential competitior.

3. Include the big guys

If you are a small vendor and regularly compete against very large vendors you may wonder why you shoudl include behemoths in the survey since obviously they will be able to support many more offerings than you can. Simple: they have a nicely-sized team full of smart people creating these offerings so you can learn a lot by studying what they do. So what if you can only offer a fraction of what they can: pick the best.

4. Start with features

It should be realtively easy to gather the definitions of the support offerings: they are typically available onlien with little effort from your part, including SLAs and other interesting details. Remember that you are reading marketing materials: the “extensive” knowledge base could be a handful of old FAQs; the “fast response” time could be just on paper.

5. Organize by support levels

It makes no sense to compare apples and oranges so once you have information from several of the competitors your next step should be to define broad categories of offerings, from basic to premium perhaps, or targeted by type of cusotmer. This will tell you a lot about the segmenting that your competitors are doing (and that you should probably imitate.)

6. Do your best with pricing

Unlike the features of support offerings pricing is hard to figure out. In many cases you will need to work with a third party to get at the information. (Be careful when survying recent transplants from the competitors for the information: you don’t want to put them in a situation where they violate their confidentiality agreements.)

7. Remember you have to be competitive, not necessarily the most comprehensive or the cheapest

You may not be able to deploy all the bells and whistles the compettiros have, and you may not be able to go lower in price, but remember that what counts is to offer a portfolio that does not ignore glaring needs nor reads as gauging customers. So if your competitors all offer a premium level of service that includes a named support engineer, you should probably do that (but you don’t have to offer 18 different levels of support.) And if your competitors all price 24×7 support at 22% of license you should offer yours right around that percentage (but you don’t have to “give it away” at 18% like some sales reps might suggest you do.)