“Don’t focus on your competition” consistently appears in social posts as well as articles, imploring entrepreneurs, marketers and larger company executives to ignore competition and simply take care of serving their customers. A simple Google search shows how many articles have been written recently on this topic. Is this the start of a disturbing trend? If so, then I’m greatly concerned.
Regardless of size, companies need to pay attention to their competition or else they risk damaging their valuable customer relationships. Moreover, competition keeps companies and their teams sharp, enabling them to serve their customers better, delivering supreme customer experiences.
It does make sense why company executives and entrepreneurs write articles advising others to focus on their existing customers, providing them supreme products and services that deliver value and earn loyalty. It’s a simple message and enables the authors to attract attention. It’s provocative.
However, being provocative solely as an end rather than a means to an end is disingenuous. Companies succeed and thrive when they execute on a variety of activities. The key is investing the right amount of time, money and resources into the right mix of activities. Of course, companies shouldn’t only focus on competition, but competitive analysis and awareness activities also bring great value.
Understanding your competition and learning about their innovative solutions keeps you grounded and reinforces your need to execute across all parts of the business. This is not about beating your competition into a pulp and destroying them. It’s about providing better customer solutions, so you consistently enhance the customer experience you deliver. Without competition, you won’t ultimately satisfy your customers as quickly as you could because you won’t want your competition to beat you to it. Competition helps drive your continuous innovation.
Customers will continue to love you and the products and services you deliver them until they don’t and leave you behind. By many accounts customers loved their BlackBerry RIM devices until Apple’s iPhone arrived, ushering in the smartphone era that left BlackBerry in the dust.
While many BlackBerry customers were addicted to their devices (remember it was often referred to as CrackBerry), many of them abandoned the company to use smartphones, damaging BlackBerry’s customer relationships severely. Innovation doesn’t only come from engaging with customers. Competition often inspires innovation. You must understand your market and where it’s going for long-term success. Ongoing competitive analysis ensures that you’ll at least have the opportunity to continue to earn customer loyalty, offering innovative solutions that not only maintain customer relationships but also enhance them.
In addition to competition helping you execute across your entire business and enhancing your customer relationships, it also keeps you and your team sharp. Competitive pressure is different than the pressure and passion you have that comes from simply serving your customers. Competition creates urgency, which is critical for consistent success.
Men’s tennis over the past 15 years provides a good example of how competition helps players hone their skills. Federer, Nadal and Djokovic recently have dominated tennis. All three of these players improved their games, as well as slowing down typical age-related declines. They did this not only through focusing on their own games, but also paying particular attention to each other. They enhanced their play, and they improved their conditioning to keep pace with each other. Their efforts enabled them to continue to beat each other, but also to maintain their ability to win against the rest of the players on tour. Focusing on the competition made each of these players better.
It’s human nature to slow down and smell the roses when you’ve succeeded. Companies that build great businesses often don’t sustain them without keeping a competitive edge. This can’t be done without paying attention to the competition. Relentless focus on customers will only get you so far and creates a significant risk to maintaining long-term success. Without competition, it’s too easy to rest on your laurels.
Overall, if you ignore your competition, especially the competitors that aren’t obvious, you put your company and its ability to maintain success at risk. Focus on serving your customers and analyze your competition simultaneously to stay sharp and maintain healthy customer relationships. Don’t let what happened to BlackBerry happen to you.
For more information about incorporating competitive analysis into your marketing strategy, please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.