How we were looking for competitors for the start-up Crane-Locator

- Saturday, March 24, 2018

The article is about the start-up developing, where we took part. It is what we are usually doing - startups and non-template custom projects development. Moreover, as is often happens, we have been doing much more than just designing and architecting. A lot of required to launch the product to the market: market and customer research, business strategy. And, this story is about the competitors analysis.

Why search competitors?

Does anybody want to develop the new youtube? Or launch the search engine server as a flipside to Google? I don't affirm that it out of sense anymore. It exists another video-hostings or search services, surely. And even some of them successful enough. However, they succeeded just because differ considerably. Each of them found the approach to become a bit another. If you'd say your idea stays beyond the competition, it's time to think harder. Probably the problem does not exist. And you are going to resolve it.

So, we have to know competitors. Know by sight. In specifics. The deeper, the better. Keep track of them continuously. Or periodically, once in half year at least. By this token, the competitor's report is one of the general points in the investment bunch. It will become topical when you start fundraising.

Project Logistics niche


Looking for competitors for the marketplace.

Such a task we have been faced up during the next startup idea dissection. Better to break down this step before starting others. The essence of the idea is the marketplace in the narrowly targeted niche of Project Logistics. It all about oversized and overloaded cargos. Even insignificant displacement of such loading requires own project. That is why this niche names Project Logistics. You can find special cranes, trailers, tracks among the equipment in this area. And uncommonly even planes, helicopters, underwater platforms.

Determination of the targeted audience and their problems.

Our start-up connects suppliers and consumers. It means we have at least two audiences. Companies with such peculiar equipment and related services from one side. And companies who needed such equipment and services.

It's nothing to do something in any niche without experts. After the detailed consultations with specialists, we've got several directions for working out. Here are some of the project examples in the required area:

  • Transport and install oversized cargo for petrochemical industry;
  • Deliver wind power equipment with installations;
  • Rigging services onshore and offshore;

Each project requires several items or tens of items of various specialized Heavy Lifting Transport Equipment for different project stages:

  • Dismantling of object and loading of its parts to specialized transport equipment;
  • Transportation of object parts to the destination, sometimes with a few different modes of transport congestion and transportation between countries (multimodal);
  • The lifting of object parts and installation.

Let's set the keyword requests.

The manufacturer of the cargo or general contractor usually doing all project works implementation, the selection of equipment and other subcontractors. Each project is required to include companies engaged in the following services:

  • Rent equipment, occasionally sale
  • Project cargo owners and manufacturers, also contractors
  • Engineering
  • Logistics
  • Insurance
  • Certifications, Road permit, other Paper works

And often required companies providing other related services:

  • Equipment service
  • Equipment parts
  • Personnel (Recruiting)
  • Consulting
  • other 28 services

It's necessary to find all the participants in all areas and types of services for the project. Large logistics companies in this area have been collecting own internal database. They know the suitable providers in many world's regions. However, we have to find them online.

We have been tried to simulate of a pretty real project. Just for greater realism and understanding the process essence. The goal was transportation and installation of the enormous gas turbine. The starting point was the center of France at the manufacturer company Alstom. The finish point was Jeskazgan Kazakhstan, a thermal power plant.

Project Alstom - Jezkasgan


For more clarity, I will give the parameters of the turbine: weight 220 t, length 9 m, width: 4.20 m; height of 3.8 m. It was required to plan 14 separate stages. Nine extraordinary equipment items were needed. And ten related services.

We had been searching online compatible equipment and companies who provide required services. The keywords list of 300 items had been defined. We selected companies which could make some project parts.

Let's systematizing the competitors.

The vast list of results gives the imagination that a lots competitors exist. Better to categorize them.

  1. Heavy transport equipment for rent or occasional sale;
  2. Miscellaneous equipment for sale, including heavy transport equipment (scarce for the project required the purchase of equipment)
    • (not so many heavy transport equipment)
    • (not so many heavy transport equipment)
    • - (only heavy transport equipment)
    • - (only heavy transport equipment)
  3. Freight (hardly suitable for niche heavy transport equipment)
  4. Rental of various general construction equipment.
    • What is typical for this category:
      • No full coverage of equipment categories for the niche;
      • Not exists filtration by parameters and geolocation;
      • No equipment specification table. It means the professional guy required for choosing such equipment. He has to know all these machinery in details.
      • The search process is orienting to companies search. Not for equipment.
      • Not so much heavy transport equipment here. And almost not exists narrowly specialized equipment.
    • (search companies in USA and Canada)
    • (search companies in USA and Canada)
    • (no filters, no geolocation)
  5. Owners and manufacturers of machinery
    • They offer what they have for sale or rent. Limited by geography. All of them are potential members of our product.
    • (United States, SAVANNAH, GA)
    • - no catalog, expecting calls
    • - not so many cranes, no other categories (indicated status Currently Rented, probably exists timeline)

Making the results narrow.

I have selected the few only records from each category, which is more suitable as a strong competitor. Put them into the long spreadsheet where I collect all the parameters, that I've got to dig.

Competitors table1


Generalizing all the small values:

  • The niche coverage.
    For example, it only 2-3% of building equipment compatible with Project Logistics
  • Equipment categories
    Some resources represent only cranes and trailers. Second have vessels. Third represents companies and no information if they have equipment anymore.
  • Purpose. Some specialize exclusively in the sale of equipment. Some are only renting.
  • Geography.
    Someone covers only North America and does not work in other regions.
  • SEO-indicators.
    Attendance, the age of the site, the number of pages in the index. Level of fame of various rank.
  • Features.
    Contains filtration by characteristics, selection by region on the map, multilingualism.
  • Equipment items quantity, suitable for the niche?
  • The quality of all represented data

Competitors table2


Regarding the data quality, we get the separate investigation. Particularly, we have found the instant appearance of 12000 equipment items over one of the respective resource. It happens in one day 26 October 2014. It possible to check even now, thanks to the service WayBackMachine. It reflects the site view as if we saw it 2 or 3 years ago. However, in the same month, according to the picture for 17 Oct 2014 (Fig.5.), there is no mention of the presence of any equipment at all.

indoogo 17-05-2014


indoogo 26-10-2014


What does it mean? Means that all the machinery has been collected by the robot parser from publicly available companies sites. Nobody knows if these engines actually exist and if it stays in that place. Its characteristics are not specified or mixed. It names even differently. The similar transformations with this site happen again in two months. It was imported next few thousands of equipment at one time.

indoogo 27-12-2014


Define the most competitive ones.

Nevertheless, we refer the resource mentioned above to the leading competitors. Moreover, we define this complete list. Choose the ones closest to our marketplace and with the most significant niche coverage. That is, here on these sites the general contractors will select the equipment for the project:


Now we narrow down the list of criteria which helps us to distance ourselves from competitors. Moreover, make us disparate from all the others that were not included in the list.

There are the defined criteria:

  • The coverage of categories of specialized project equipment;
  • The segmentation of companies that provide related services;
  • Filtering by well-structured equipment parameters;
  • Public requests for equipment and services

Why these criteria exactly? That is the very creative moment, which can't be so quickly formalized for any start-up. Expert intuition just gave the cue. Because he has been searching such companies and equipment for many years. We name it the hypothesis.

The spreadsheet became smaller.

Competitors table3


You can show it to investors even. Indeed, for the more in-depth questions, we have a full report in the bosom. It contains the large table and specific parameters for comparison.

The general conclusions.

  1. We have defined the list of leading competitors. It reflects where the industry moves, how to change their audience and functionality. They help to evaluate soberly our chances in the game. We know how to develop own positioning and distance, how to improve our advantages. They help us to figure out the sources of our audience engagement. They show where and how they advertised. It worth to learn from their success and fail. Useful to monitor this list every half year.
  2. No one competitor covers the Project Logistics niche for 100%. Someone contains cranes and does not have barges. Others are limited to own equipment only. They restricted in growth, and they are not marketplace anymore. Others are defined by separate geographical region.
  3. We have identified the direction where to go deeply into. We know how to get more distance from other competitors. We know how to make our Project Logistics customers more satisfied.
    • Develop and promote the public requests for equipment and services;
    • Provide the maximal coverage of Project Logistics niche and accomplish it;
    • Engage all related service companies and place them with deep segmentation by regions and by business categories.

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