Recently I met with the CEO of a promising Icelandic startup company. When I asked him how their competitors did things, he said he didn’t care that much about their business competitors, he just wanted to focus on what they themselves were doing. I get it. Don’t get sucked into focusing too much on the other guys. However, here’s the problem:
In your marketing, you are trying to convince people to buy from you rather than someone else. If you don’t know what options your prospective customers are considering and the options they are comparing, how do you make them understand that your stuff is the best option? If you don’t know the competitors, how are you going to respond when they ask you “why should I buy from you rather than them?” If you don’t know them, can you really give a proper answer?
Please, please don’t fall into to the trap of saying: “Because I provide better service or my product and service are of better quality.” It’s waaayyy too abstract. Better service according to whom? What are the standards we are measuring this service by? Better service according to you may not be the same as better service according to someone else. People might simply not think about the things you see as being “better service”. Service and quality are two things that are very very hard to use as a competitive advantage.
Jay Conrad Levinson, the father of Guerilla Marketing, says: ”It’s not about being better than the competitor. It’s about being different” So if you don’t know your competitors and what they’re doing, how are you going to be different? Differentiation in the marketplace is a key element in good marketing.
Frequently, when I ask about people about their business competitors, I also get the response, “I know the competition, I don’t really have to study them especially”. I have actually had a number of clients say this to me when I suggest we do a thorough analysis. And they are grown people. I can only advise them, I can’t make them do it. So I let it be and continue my work with them. Without exception we get to a point where they either a) figure they should do as I advise or b) figure out that they can’t really continue developing their strategy before they know a few things about the competition, at which point they will go back to the analysis I proposed they do. And also without exception they come back to me all revved up, gushing about how much they learned, the opportunities they uncovered etc. etc. etc.
See, you can learn so much from your business competitors as well. You can learn what they are doing well, and you can borrow the good stuff from them. You will also see things that they are not doing that well, allowing you not only to avoid making the same mistakes, but you may also spot some opportunities in there. I have had clients discover whole new avenues to take their business into as a result of studying the competition – very lucrative, I may add.
I am not saying that you should be chasing your business competitors’ every move, or reacting to everything they do, but you need to be aware of what they are doing. The simple thing is that if you don’t monitor the competition, if you don’t know what they are up to, they may one day sneak up on you and then overtake you and leave you in the dust. Do you really want to take that chance?
May I suggest that in the coming week you really focus on studying your competitors. What are they doing in general? What are they doing well? What are they doing badly? How are they doing it? Where do they seem to be heading in the future? How can you ensure that when people look at them and then look at you, they like you more than them and therefore choose to do business with you?
I’d love if you shared with me some of the things you learn, in the comments below :)