Mar 8, 2012
Walk up to your average entrepreneur, sales executive, or marketer and ask them who their biggest competitors is.
I’d be willing to bet with odds in your favor that 9 out of 10 of them will name another company. Likely in the exact same line of business serving the exact same geographic customer.
I’d also be willing to bet you with those same odds that the person is right about one thing and wrong about another. The named business(es) do represent competition, but by no means are they naming their “Biggest” competitor.
In every role I’ve worked in I have had numerous sales personnel and other leadership team members constantly focusing on the obvious competitors. To an extent where the focus became somewhat unhealthy and potentially paralyzing. So much energy was spent on these proposed rivals that it became our entire business purpose to unseat them.
I guess the thought was if we beat them we were guaranteed success. However that is putting a lot of eggs into another companies strategy!
Some time ago I wrote a blog called “First Forget The Competition.” Its premise is before we can worry about the others in our industry we must focus on ourselves and execute. I stick to that sentiment in respects to worrying about the other companies. However I have augmented my view slightly as to competition as a whole. Some competition needs to be faced all the time, it just may not be the competition that you are thinking.
Upon further review I have discovered that our real competition is different than we initially think. In actuality we all face 3 competitors in our businesses that are exactly the same.
- Don’t Know: Whether it is the market you serve, your value proposition, or the customer sentiment about your product. The most common don’t know question is do your best “Potential” customers even know you exist? Your landscape is full of the unknown and those gaps must be filled. The inability to recognize how “Don’t know” is effecting your business is quietly costing your sales and profits every day.
- Do Nothing: Sometimes you do know your biggest challenges, shortcomings, or opportunities and you choose to do nothing about them. Often it is a subconscious choice but sometimes it is a matter of being stubborn, uncertain, or afraid. Nevertheless, if you do nothing it is unlikely you will move to or stay in the front of the pack. Just ask Polaroid after they created the technology to do digital images but chose to do nothing and protect their legacy film business.
- Don’t Care: Most often this isn’t an internal problem but an external one. Perhaps you think you know and you are doing something about it but your offering isn’t what the people want. You could have the most brilliant people in the world working on amazingly complex solutions but if you are solving the wrong problem you will have a lot of brilliant bad offerings. The result is customers that will never support your brand, or even worse…indifference (don’t care)
The other day I saw a great picture on Facebook. (below)
To that I say, the opportunist is the one that sees where the real competition lies. For now, the three most important competitors above can be our little secret. We will let everyone else keep believing it is someone else!