I get asked by a number of SMB and large enterprise vendors if they should employ a competitive lab. My answer is always, it depends on what type of investment and output you want from your competitive lab. Some simple advice on what to expect to gain of running a competitive lab:
- Understanding technical differentiators. Not all technical features are created equal. One vendor’s differentiators may not be in the software but could be in the hardware in itself.
- Not all technical differentiators are indeed technical. A differentiator could be the usability and experience of the product and not in the product itself.
- Not all product’s differentiators can be found from doing tests in the competitor’s lab.
Fully understand what is expected in acquiring competitor’s products. Remember to document the delivery, the useability, the installation, the maintenance of the competitor’s product. Each phase of the experience may be a differentiator for the competitor. Other things to consider while running a competitor’s lab is the ability to run performance testing with different types of specifications. By performance benchmark testing of different workloads will validate if the competitor’s marketing and claims are either true or false. This will allow you to debunk a lot of the mysteries that the competitors are claiming to the market.
Always a good rule of thumb is the dollar you invest in a competitive lab should garner nearly a 25x return. In other words, every $1000 spent on procuring and tearing down a competitor’s gear, should expect to displace the competitor’s wallet share by at least $25,000.