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Acting as a customer to get competitor information?

MoreValue

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I am interested in the construction of a product. I found a business that is doing something similar and wanted to "pose" as a customer an ask questions to get more info. So technically using the response from their sales team to build my product.

Example would be probing how their materials are made if not advertised.

Is there any risk in this? Should I change my name? Can a business down eventually look at my business. Search my name in their customer message database and track it to me the CEO seeing that I am producing a component that is similar?
 

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Low Chi

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Did you ever think about a way how to contribute to a partnership instead of "using them" for free? There are also ways of licencing, whitelabel-purchasing etc. If your value system is based on a perception, that this is the only way to reach a milestone of your goal, it'll will also lead to a decreased opportunity layer and shorten your receptive mode for ideas. I don't want to criticize you. I just want to mention, that other ways "with" this company could lead also to fruitful cooperations. If you assume that masquerading as a customer is the only way, you limit your possibilities. Example: If you partner for preliminary products with them, the amount of purchasing raw goods would increase, the price decrease (also for them). So you could use them as a supplier for your own production chain. If you had fear that they could copy your product, I would split the whole production process at a link where I can add value to it separated from the initial supplier. "Amateurs compete, pros create." (Bob Proctor) This creation process in a mind includes to be aware that I can originate ideas which add value at any milestone of the production chain of a product. I once worked for a company in a very technical market. The amount of whitelabeled products for other companies was a huge part of the turnover every year. These orders contributed also to the load factor of the production line. It included even dropshipping for the buyer company to their customers.
 

Isaac Oh

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Nothing illegal I can imagine, but not the best mindset to thrive in my opinion
 

amp0193

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Yes, I do this, and learn a lot by doing so. It always amazes me how much I can get them to tell me.

I have also called and said exactly who I was, and was still amazed at how much they would tell me.
 

Scot

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I’d listen to what @amp0193 says. Learning from his competition has made his products so much better. And given him ideas for expansion.

I did the same when I started my business. I bought all of the products my competitor made to try the flavor and try and find out who made them.

I joined their mailing list and emailed them as well.

Use a throw away email if you’re worried but no, this is pretty standard when doing market research.
 

ravenspear

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I’ve already done this for one product I’m building. I don’t think there is anything wrong with it. The goal is to assess how much value and quality the competition’s product delivers so you can make sure that you build more quality and more value into your product.
 

Ismails

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Your Post reminds me the Bar Rescue TV Series by Jon Taffer.
He sends a few people to recon the bar before Jon enters the Bar.
 

Lyinx

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What do you mean not the best mindset?
I can't answer for Isaac Ooh, but I can answer from my info. It depends on why you're buying from them.

1: if you're buying to copy identically, then you won't get far. They will re-invent it or improve it in 6 months and then you need to buy another copy and re-engineer it. Those who copy other products and try to undersell never get very far in the long run and are always running around finding new things to copy.

2: if you're buying to learn from it, that's when we're getting somewhere. Make your product better (you do not need to advertise it as "better than X brand name", just state "reinforcements here, and here, and here, as we have found these to be weak points in the product. Also, btw, have added a small weight here, as it makes it balance better (along with a diagram that shows where it is) By showing people why it's better, you will increase the value of the product.

3: also try: leaving product in the cart, to see if you get a response (make sure you created an account and logged in before adding the product. Buy product, do you get another email? do they send out emails every week or month?
 

MitchM

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It’s only natural to learn from what already exists. Everyone does it consciously or unconsciously.

There is nothing wrong with buying a customers product or learning about their funnel, etc. to see where you can make improvments and learn better ways to move forward.

I did this with the product I’m working on and what I’ve got going so far is 10X better.

So, as long as you’re of the mindset to build instead of just imitate - this is totally fine. Don’t even worry about someone “finding out.”
 

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MoreValue

MoreValue

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I can't answer for Isaac Ooh, but I can answer from my info. It depends on why you're buying from them.

1: if you're buying to copy identically, then you won't get far. They will re-invent it or improve it in 6 months and then you need to buy another copy and re-engineer it. Those who copy other products and try to undersell never get very far in the long run and are always running around finding new things to copy.

2: if you're buying to learn from it, that's when we're getting somewhere. Make your product better (you do not need to advertise it as "better than X brand name", just state "reinforcements here, and here, and here, as we have found these to be weak points in the product. Also, btw, have added a small weight here, as it makes it balance better (along with a diagram that shows where it is) By showing people why it's better, you will increase the value of the product.

3: also try: leaving product in the cart, to see if you get a response (make sure you created an account and logged in before adding the product. Buy product, do you get another email? do they send out emails every week or month?
Oh, my product is in no way a copy cat. It is just the fabric material I am interested in how they made it that can be applied to my product. That will probably be the only similarity.
 
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MoreValue

MoreValue

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I’d listen to what @amp0193 says. Learning from his competition has made his products so much better. And given him ideas for expansion.

I did the same when I started my business. I bought all of the products my competitor made to try the flavor and try and find out who made them.

I joined their mailing list and emailed them as well.

Use a throw away email if you’re worried but no, this is pretty standard when doing market research.
I definitely wanted to buy their products to study them, but their products are like $300-500+
 

Here

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At one point I did a corporation’s competitive analysis as a freelancer. I purchased the competitors products under my own name. I guess you could get a contractor to do your research as well.
 

csalvato

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All of your concerns are really non-concerns. They can't really sue you for calling in to buy their product in the past, no matter your motives.

This technique is valuable in a lot of ways. I've done it a few times.

You will learn a lot about your competitors, and how they position themselves. You will be able to get an idea of the hot buttons that to which their customers respond well (note, these may be different to your customers in the future though - since people will have to pick you for different reasons than they pick the competition). You may even learn things like who they use to manufacture, and their manufacturing techniques.

You will learn many more things, too – things you couldn't have even imagined.

I did want to throw out a caveat to this approach to product development, though...and I only bring it up because you specifically say this is how you are developing your product:

So technically using the response from their sales team to build my product.
You probably won't like to hear this, but this is a terrible way to do product development.

Yes, you'll learn about the competition in many ways. Yes, that's valuable.

But to make a truly terrific product, a 10x product, you need to be focused relentlessly on your customer's needs, not your competitor's features.

Mediocre companies do product development this way. They get stuck in this because they think the competition is better, and that they have something to learn from them. What ends up happening is your product is always, at best, a me-too product.

You'll just be a bad copy off of the people who actually understands their customers; and you're missing all their context on why they made those certain product decisions.

For product development, you should be talking to customers relentlessly.

As a rule of thumb, for every one call with a competitor, you should be having 100 with a customer. For every one visit to a competitor's website for "research", you should have 1000 survey responses from a potential customer.

When it comes to product development, focus on the customer and their problems; not the competition and their solutions.

Apologies if I misunderstood your comment, and you never intended to develop your product solely by talking to your competitors.


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EDIT: Sorry I missed this comment by you:

Oh, my product is in no way a copy cat. It is just the fabric material I am interested in how they made it that can be applied to my product. That will probably be the only similarity.
Turns out my post doesn't apply - but I'll leave it up for posterity.
 
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MHP368

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Ive done this twice , I use a burner phone and fake email but only because the first time I didn't and I got endless spam emails and calls from hungry salesmen.

I dont feel its unethical either , like , if a customer from a competitor told you this info would you feel bad? , If you're talking honest to god industrial espionage like patent stealing then yeh thats too far but calling for quotes and to see what customer service is like isn't a big deal. Its just like reading competitor google reviews but you actually have to make a call.
 

Lucky Lu

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It will depend on how you handle the interaction if you are incurring in actionable misrepresentation or not.

A misrepresentation is a false statement of a material fact made by one party which affects the other party's decision in agreeing to a contract. If the misrepresentation is discovered, the contract can be declared void and, depending on the situation; the adversely impacted party may seek damages.

So, if you are buying a sample there is no visible harm or reason to be liable. If you introduce yourself as an important buyer and you trick them into disclosing confidential information in order to copy and produce a competing product that could change.
Extremely rare to have any consequence at all, buying competitor's products is a common practice and it is done every day with no issue whatsoever.
Of course every situation is different and the only way to really talk about it is to know all the facts which I don't, so take that as just my two cents.
 
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MoreVolume

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done this plenty of times
theres nothing wrong or illegal about this

edit: this thread is filled with BS responses. wow
 

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