Product Review: RivalMap

Every company I’ve worked with has struggled to stay on top of its competition. Competitors continuously come and go, merge and change names, and launch, end-of-life and rename products and services. Product marketers and product managers who typically “own” competitive information in companies come and go, too, as do the miscellaneous tools they use to track and organize all this information.

To help address these issues, RivalMap (www.rivalmap.com) from California-based RivalSoft is a Web-based SaaS application priced at $24-$199/month that centralizes and organizes information about your competitors. Its core functionality is divided into five areas:

  • Dashboard presents a rolling list of what’s new and what’s hot.
  • Posts is where RivalMap users enter nuggets of competitive information, add links, upload files, or discuss ongoing competitive issues. These posts are presented in the dashboard.
  • Profiles are descriptions of competitors and their products or services, along with SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis, tags, related files, concerns and more for each competitor.
  • News displays RSS feeds about competitors (if available).
  • Comparisons allows you to make graphical comparison charts of product functionality.

After having used RivalMap for several months—in an environment with 20 users, tracking 30 companies—my impressions are mixed. A few standout positives:

  • RivalMap is a relatively inexpensive, easy to learn and use tool that does a good job at storing and organizing competitive information.
  • The fact that it’s Web-based and requires authentication makes it convenient and safe to access by distributed sales and marketing teams.
  • The ability to set up email alerts for new posts and to submit posts via email is great.
  • The comparison chart tool is superb.

Alas, RivalMap has a few issues.

First, elements of RivalMap’s interface are quirky and would benefit from some finessing. For instance, when looking at the most useful screen, the Dashboard (analogous to the News Feed on Facebook), posts about various competitors are displayed by their subject line but the name of the competitor to which the post refers is not displayed. This makes it hard to tell, at a glance, what posts relate to which competitor—imagine Facebook status updates without knowing who posted them. Also, the posts display how many days ago the post was made; a simple date-stamp would be more useful here.

Another area that needs work is the wiki used to enter notes (“profiles” in RivalMap parlance) about competitors. Like many wikis, the editing capabilities are extremely limited. Glaring example: you can’t skip lines. When these profiles get long, they got hard to read.

The News system should theoretically be the most useful functionality in RivalMap, but I actually found it to be the least useful. In short, it aggregates too much and doesn’t present information in an easily digestible format. There are plenty of other free tools that do a better job at compiling this kind of information.

My second issue is that I feel like there are some things missing—this isn’t a criticism of RivalMap, but rather more of a wishlist. How about auto-populating Profiles of publicly-traded companies from one or more database services? How about having RivalMap automatically search the Web for news about competitors instead of relying on RSS? How about integrating other off-the-shelf tools that could be useful for competitive intelligence (Google News Alerts and WatchThatPage.com come to mind). How about some rudimentary social media integration to add the Twitter feeds of your competitors? And in Profiles, it would also be nice if you could set up a template for filling these in (e.g., Product Names, Pricing, Where We Compete, etc.), rather than having them be completely free-form.

In the end, the real question about RivalMap is whether it’s better than other tools out there. And there isn’t another tool quite like RivalMap out there that I’m aware of, though there are of course dozens of substitutes for specific functionality within it, most of which are free or low cost. Any wiki, for instance, could enable group note sharing about competitors. Any news reader could automate collection of public information about competitors. You could make comparison charts with a spreadsheet or word processing application. You could create a simple intranet site for collecting and disseminating all this information. And so on.

But perhaps that is the point of RivalMap. RivalMap brings all these functions into one tool. There’s always value in consolidation, even if each tool isn’t as good as some of the other tools out there. From that perspective, RivalMap can be perceived as a steal for as little as $24/month. There’s also a free plan with some limitation, if you just want to try it out.

Other reviews of RivalMap:

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