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How does someone who has just started to market themselves actually go about figuring out the competition?

I, personally, wish to focus on IT: Software and Infrastructure, etc. In case of, say, plumbers or handymen, they usually have a lookup directory or listing, etc.

For instance, the most I could imagine doing is either broad searches on a search engine. Beyond that, I think social meetings like user groups, conferences, etc is possibly the only other place I could hope to get a feel at.

Asking other recruiters is also an option, but I believe that information such as this is not handed on a silver platter.

I can also think of faking an opportunity to see and judge the respondents, but it is something that might prove more hassle than worth.

I am actually looking for ways in which I can identify the sources of this information; infrastructure that might exist, which I'm oblivious to!

  • @robert - I understand your concern, thanks, but I do not agree with the edit. I have perfectly good reasons to cross-post and promote another question for the widest choice of answers. Is there a guideline that prohibits me from doing so? If not, I wish to roll back the edit please. – bPratik Jun 19 '13 at 14:06
  • this might help RE cross-posting: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/64068/… – levelnis Jun 19 '13 at 14:12
  • @levelnis - tl;dr - I'll read it after work though. Thanks! But the cross post in my question was to a post on Quora, which was open to forum'esque answers, which are not welcome on StackOverflow. Does your link specifically target this situation? – bPratik Jun 19 '13 at 14:14
  • No, it's specifically regarding cross-posting on Stack Exchange sites but I think that the premise would still stand, which is why the mod removed the cross-posting part of your question. I think it would be OK to post that question on the forum as well, just not to advertise that fact within your question here, because it isn't relevant to getting an answer. – levelnis Jun 19 '13 at 14:18
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    That's not the purpose of comments either, but go for it. I'll let the community decide what to do with it (if anything) from here. – Robert Cartaino Jun 19 '13 at 14:46
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This is what I do when I evaluate a market (for my needs or for my prospects):

  1. I search on google for goods or services from that market and watch what shows up
  2. I rotate different keywords to see who is advertising on them on google (no ads suggest that the market might not be profitable, if it is not worth money for ads to anyone)
  3. I search online company directories (I think that there will be at least one in every country)
  4. If possible, I check their probable customers, ask them directly if needed and possible (you would be surprised how often you will get honest answer to question like "Would you mind telling me who is your supplier for this product?" - especially if they are final consumer for that product)
  5. I will make a list of places (virtual or real) where my competition can be present and then I investigate them (could be community web, could be annual fair, etc.)
  6. I look for entities that provide certifications of some kind to providers of goods and services in that market (it can be MSDN certification, it can be ISO certificate, it can be some kind of "Proper privacy policy" certificate, it can be "Retail seller of the year" award or list of "Official distributors" etc.) and check their list of issued certificates, distributor list etc. (or ask them for it if it isn't easy to find).

Of course the evaluation is always specific depending on the nature of the market and it should get much deeper than this, but this can get you started in case you like it.

  • Ah, I like your answer :) – bPratik Jun 19 '13 at 14:32
  • Thank you :) Hopefully it isnt too broad, I wanted to provide answer that will be as close to "universaly applicable" as possible while still having concrete steps that can be taken... – Erchi Jun 19 '13 at 14:35
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Here are a few things to do:

  • Search on Google on the keywords you want to be found on - check the results and the adverts, and try to get a picture of the market shares on Google

  • Think from the client point: where would you go to find a professional? Probably LinkedIn, freelance websites, startpages, etc.

  • Check the portfolios of the people you find and try to come up with an answer to the question "Why are they bad, and why am I better?"

  • If you can find their clients, contact them and ask why they chose for the company they chose for, and if they're satisfied or not - in both cases ask why

  • See what kind of product mix your competition has (what do they say why their product is the best) and tune in to that: you'll have to argue either why you can do that, and better or why you shouldn't want that

  • If your competition gives non-committal offers, try it out. Think up a common example product and see how expensive they are and what they do to convince you to choose them

1

If you're doing software development, competition is not an issue. What is an issue is local demand. Markets in most of the country are cold, but a few are hot.

I have had people vote down hard on the following summary, so take it with a grain of salt:

Within the US, one computer per worker, one per student, one per household, and 40 million servers plus 150 million smartphones. This comes out to around 400 million desktop/laptop PCs, for a total of around 550 million programmable devices users can install software on. Based on numbers at bls.gov, one could conclude there are somewhere between 1.2 million and 2 million developers in the US. This is roughly 400 devices per programmer.

This implies there is far more work than there are people to do it. However, if you're in Albuquerque, forget it. If you're in Detroit, you're in luck. In short, if you can't find anything in your hometown, look down the road - see what's available in a 100 mile radius.

I've found that the 'can opener' is Microsoft Access - there are a lot of small businesses that need this, and lots of IT people won't mess with it. If you need street cred, this is a good way of getting it.

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