we built an idea management system at the Taipei Startup Weekend (a few days ago) and were delighted to finish second.
This morning we've found that a competitor, one who's clients include FedEx, Johnson and Johnson and GM has signed up to use our service, adding 3 users. We offer a one month free trial so there's nothing wrong with it, I'm just wondering should we let them look around or kick them out?
For context, if our services were competing Client Relations Managers (CRMs), there's might be SalesForce.com and ours might be 37 Signals Basecamp. So there's probably not much chance they'll steal the entire concept, but could steal parts of it. Our solution is really simple and they boast of having "The Most Advanced Idea and Innovation Management Platform on the Market".
In summary - Q. Should we kick them out, or let them look around, perhaps humorously teasing them?
You should let them play around and test it out.
Sure they might see some ideas in there they might look, but they are the 1,000 lb gorilla. Slow to move and implement new ideas. You are small, agile, nimble. You will probably need to be very much like 37signals was compared to Microsoft Project. Less features, easy to use, but everyone can find a use for you. So keep your app simple, effective, make sure there are API's to extend it and just kick their ass :]
Let them login, play around and get their internal developers all jealous about how you are moving in on their territory with just a weekend of work.
Plus, you don't want to piss them off, be friendly competitors and maybe they will buy you out down the road for some ridiculous amount of money.
Without knowing more about your system, it's kind of hard to grasp the context. Is there any type of interaction with a sales representative on your side before a customer is allowed in? If not, is it fair to say that if your competitor really wants to see your system, there isn't really a lot you can do to stop them?
I don't believe you should rely on trying to keep your features a secret in order to serve as a barrier. You're going to have to promote your service anyway I assume in order to gather clients, so you should just accept the loss of secrecy and spend your time worrying about improving those features that give you an advantage over the competition in the first place.
Kicking them out likely wouldn't prevent them from eventually getting the knowledge they seek, but it could damage your company's image and your relationship with your competitor. Large competitor today, potential buyer or partner down the road: I'd err on trying to keep things friendly.
@Dmurtagh: If you offer the free trial, and assuming they are not attempting to sabotage the product, you should really allow them - and any other competitor - to have a look.
In re: to your tease, unless your sign-up terms and conditions explicitly state that they (by clicking "accept") are permitting you to use their logo and brand name, you should definitely not affiliate their name or logo to your website in anyway. Although they may be slow to implement new software features, I might think their legal team is a bit faster than yours.
Keep focusing on your software and winning new clients; let your product speak for itself and good things will happen.