By Amy Duncan, Goldfish Consulting, Inc.

Earlier this week I was invited to join Chris Connor for his Life Science Marketing Radio Podcast to talk about the competitive audit. As much as I tried to keep it high level, 20 minutes just isn’t enough time to explore important detail, especially because a competitive audit doesn’t sit in isolation. I thought I’d take the time to further explore the competitive audit and related research areas in this blog post.


We conduct a competitive audit not only to understand what competitors are doing, but also to develop strategy. Strategies that will help you develop better products and win sales that will ultimately grow the company. Strategy is not an email or a product feature. Strategy is high level. It’s behind the company’s vision, direction, and desired perception. Tactical elements like email and features are important, but they have to align with the strategy first. That’s why it’s important to have your strategy down before you start spending people’s time and limited budget on tactical details. I research four inputs to help develop strategy:  internal capabilities, market, competitors, and customers.  

Internal Company

Looking at competitors alone isn’t enough information to develop a strategy. You need evaluate their strengths against yours and establish what you’re good at—your core competencies. This is going to drive the unique expression of your brand. What products you build and how you communicate about them to customers. I call this an internal audit and it’s taking a good hard look at the company’s true capabilities—current state and future state and what you need to arrive there.

External Market

Second, we look at market. A market analysis is higher level than a competitor audit. It looks for larger trends, contributors, and detractors to growth. External influences such as political, economic, sociocultural, technological, and environmental. It’s key to understand and distinguish market segments—which ones you participate directly in and markets that drive sales of your product or service. There’s the market for sales of your type of instrument. And the market for therapeutics developed using your technology. Very different. One of the key deliverables is to estimate market size, growth, and share of each participant.


There are many different ways to study your competitors. You can buy secondary market research reports or you can conduct your own primary research. Some larger companies have departments dedicated to market research. What’s ideal is to have a product manager that owns this activity for a specific product line. You should have programs and mechanisms that allow you to continuously collect and report on competitive intel. Ideally you should conduct a competitive audit at the beginning of product development, so you understand the functionality your product needs to meet and exceed, and in preparation for launch so you can develop differentiated messaging and campaigns. When collecting intel, a great starting guide for what to look for is to do a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) and analyze the 4Ps (product, price, promotion, and place/distribution). A lot of this research can be done through internet search combing through investor documents for public companies, stories in trade or local publications, and the about and careers page on their website. Another treasure trove of intel is simply talking to your field reps on a recurring basis.

The easiest way to get started is to simply collect pricing. This is as easy as setting up an Excel sheet with columns for company name, product name, catalog number, price, number of reactions, and price per reaction. You can also add “product” information in other columns to capture functionality claims like yield, purity, time, and other key criteria that validates product performance. Look for proof for each claim. What experimental data, images, graphs, or outputs have they generated to demonstrate and prove the claims. Also look at product line breadth and direction to get an idea of the product roadmap.

The promotion and place Ps can be translated to marketing and sales. In analyzing promotion, capture the competitor’s messaging and positioning and indication of who their target customer is. Look for a value proposition—the outcome and reason to buy. Identify all of the tactics and collateral being used such as newsletters, blogs, social media, webinars, video, email, Google ads, SEO, and eBooks. Quantify number of followers, likes, and shares. Make a list of SEO keywords. Also look for incentives, calls to action, lead generation, discounts, and giveaways. Finally, understand the types and breadth of distribution channels. The number and location of sales reps and distributors.

Voice of Customer (VOC)

It’s best to do the above-mentioned research prior to talking with customers so you can talk as intelligently as possible. Before starting any project, and specifically a VOC, it’s imperative to first outline the goals, to keep you on track. Determine if the VOC is for brand, product or messaging development, market analysis, or customer service. You’ll collect better quality data if you conduct these types of studies independently, which means you have to keep an eye out for scope creep when developing the discussion guide. Some good questions to integrate when considering competition are what company/product first comes to mind for this application, what words do you associate with that company, why do you buy from that company, what are your needs and pain points, and do you follow the protocol exactly. Once you’ve determined the project goal and written the discussion guide, establish the criteria for a qualified participant. Make a prioritized list of the people to contact – three times the number of interviews you want, then make contact, schedule and conduct the interviews, and write a report.


Whether you are doing research for product development or a product launch, you should report your findings and recommendations in a brief, memo, report, or slides to share with the team and management. The best way to structure the report is to create sections for findings, analysis, and recommendations. Findings is a nice place to organize all the facts that you found—without interpretation. Reviewing the findings reveals trends. This is what goes in the analysis. Finally, from all this work, some obvious recommendations for how the company should move forward should come to light. Clearly state these in the recommendations using actionable sentences that start with a verb.


Once you’ve investigated your internal strengths, the market, competition, and customers you’ll have all the information you need to develop a positioning statement. An easy way to get started is to create a table with fields that capture positioning statement elements (see table below). Then string the responses together into one or two big technical sentences. Start wordsmithing and polishing from there.


Target customers

Who need

Desired functionality

Our product provides

Key differentiator




Similar, competitive products capabilities

Our offering

Value proposition



These research projects and positioning exercise will help you get a better understanding not only of competitors, but more importantly about what your company is good at and why customers buy from you. With this clarity you can develop strategies that balance what customers want with what competitors are doing to reveal the unique opportunities for your company’s success. These paths forward map out your strategy. Having established a sound strategy and positioning platform, you are now ready to develop targeted products and plan communications campaigns. You’ll have a better quality messaging because you’ll be speak directly to customers’ needs and pain points and clearly articulate your differentiation. If you’re interested in applying these programs to your business, please don’t hesitate to contact me.