How much time and energy do you spend trying to figure out what your competition is doing? You’ll win buzz word bingo with “competitive analysis” and “benchmarking”, but will you win customers? Is our competition really a good place to look to decide what we should be doing?
When I was landing and managing clients like Microsoft, TAP Pharmaceuticals, Seagate, Veritas, Jostens Publishing (yearbooks) and other Fortune 500 clients, I never followed what my competition was doing. I followed my clients and potential clients very closely, and expended all my efforts trying to figure out what they needed and wanted, where their entire company was going, and how we could help them get there.
I always got a lot of pressure to find out who the competition was, what they were doing to market themselves, etc., but I was too busy focusing on my customers. I suppose taking a look at the competition is a good idea, but I found that most of the companies that spend a lot of time comparing themselves to their competition ended up mimicking them, selling against them (instead of selling FOR themselves), and deciding what services they would offer based on what the competition was doing. It crushed creative, innovative, and consultative thinking about where they should go next.
If I focus on my competition and on marketing against them, I lose my focus on bringing the best, most innovative product/service to market. Having something people want and find really useful – that’s the key. And you don’t find out what people want and find useful by asking your competition, but by asking your customers and then taking a proactive leadership position to bring things to market that your competition hasn’t begun to think of.
How do you do it? Proactive leadership. I must lead my customers in my area of expertise. We don’t respond to our customers or to the competition – we lead our customers into the future by knowing what they need.
How do we know what they need? Most often, companies make the mistake of working real hard to provide their product or service. Period. (And a big mistake).
We need to work real hard to know the vision, mission, strategies, objectives, and action plans of our client’s entire company, THEN ASK OURSELVES HOW WE FIT INTO THAT. Why would we want to provide service without knowing how what we do helps them get to their overall objective? When we figure out how we fit into their bigger picture, it changes the way we view our own products/services, and that creates innovation and proactive leadership in our area of expertise.
You are not a rock, you are not an island. You are part of your client’s overall plan to make more money. If you get their bigger picture, you’ll make more money, too.
Stop focusing on your competition and start focusing on your client’s overall mission and how you fit into that. You’ll find yourself leading them in your area of expertise, and they will find themselves leaning on you heavily for much more than your product or service.
Marketing isn’t about clever tag lines, it’s about focusing on the right things that will make our clients want to buy more from us.