Competition makes the business world go ‘round. It pushes us to innovate and forces us to keep pace with the times. It also drives prices down for consumers.
But if you’ve ever wished your competition would magically vanish into a pile of dust, you’re not alone. If you focus too much on the competition, you can become paralyzed, too concerned with making the correct move that you simply don’t make any move at all.
How can you keep tabs on the competition without feeling like you’re stuck?
An Extreme Solution
Entrepreneur and marketing leader Gary Vaynerchuk has an extreme solution to this very conundrum: don’t look at the competition at all.
In the video below, he explains why he takes such an unconventional approach, focusing solely on what his team and businesses are doing rather than paying attention to the other guy. You’ll want to start watching from about 1:45.
It’s an aggressive approach, that’s for sure. You’ve got to have a truckload of confidence in what you’re doing to not even let your mind wonder—even the slightest bit—about what the competition is up to.
But it also makes sense. Ignoring the competition allows you to zone in on the two areas that matter a whole lot more to your business: your team and your customers.
It works for Gary Vee, but we’d argue that such an all-or-nothing approach to dealing with competition won’t work for most people. It’s just not in our blood to resist seeing how we stack up against others.
What’s more, Vaynerchuk has hundreds of people underneath him. We’d bet good money that someone within his organization is gathering intel on what his competitors are up to. You don’t build a multi-million dollar business in a bubble.
For the majority of entrepreneurs, scoping out the competition is a necessary part of business, and one that can come with a valuable silver lining.
To avoid becoming paralyzed by your competition, focus on all the advantages there are to gain from staying informed about your market.
Ideas Breed More Ideas
Some resources, like gasoline, are finite. When you use them up, they’re gone.
Innovation, however, works the other way. The more you use it, the more of it there is to go around.
In fact, science says creativity is actually quite like a muscle. If you lock it up and never use it, it shrivels. But if you exercise it frequently with discipline, it grows and becomes stronger.
Think about your competition in this light and it becomes a positive thing. When you see your competition doing something new, you might think ‘hey, I could do something similar, but I’d do it this way instead.’
Their ideas are a springboard to launch new ideas of your own.
Analysis Reveals Holes
What’s a surefire way to increase your revenue? By expanding into a new part of the market where there’s a hole.
You can’t identify these holes without first surveying the competitive landscape.
Let’s say you’re an orthodontist who works with kids. Recently, you’ve been getting a lot of inquiries from adults who are interested in invisible braces.
If you do a bit of research on the other orthodontists in your city, you might find that everyone else, like you, has zoned in on kids. This might be the perfect opportunity to launch a special program or division of your practice dedicated exclusively to adults. If you did this, you’d easily have a corner on the market.
Of course, most real-world examples aren’t this cut and dry, but you can see how examining the competition will tell you what the other guy isn’t doing—a sign that maybe there’s a gap to be filled.
Customers Come First
Serving your customer better is never a bad thing. When you’re forced to compete for the customer’s attention, you’re forced to think of new ways to serve and delight them.
This applies not only to pricing, but to your “special sauce” too—the unique way your company makes customers feel valued. Does this sound like a foreign concept? Then it’s high time to take a look at how your competition wows its customers, and take a cue from them.
Customer service is also a time-tested way to compete against a bigger, more profitable competitor. It’s one of the few areas where size can actually be a disadvantage.
Millions of people shop at Wal-Mart. You can’t beat their prices! But it’s definitely not a place you go when you want to feel valued or have a memorable experience. When you want a truly special shopping experience, you probably opt for a smaller, boutique-style retailer where you know the service is going to rock.
In this way, competition is a good thing because it gives the little guy an unfair advantage in the customer service arena. Make the big guys compete with you by having the best damn customer service around.
Keep It In Check
Everything in moderation, right? If you’re staying up late at night analyzing every inch of the other guy’s website or sending friends into their shop on reconnaissance missions, you’ve probably gone too far.
Scoping out the competition should be a regular part of your business strategy, like balancing the books or ordering new office supplies. It shouldn’t be an obsession.
Taking stock of the competition on a monthly or quarterly basis is a great way to stay in-the-know without becoming stalker-ish. When you do it, here are a few good questions to ask:
- What new initiatives are they working on or promoting? Have they launched any new products or divisions?
- What do their latest marketing materials (emails, Facebook posts, etc.) look like?
- Have they made any big changes to their website?
- Are they hiring for any major positions? Have there been recent changes in leadership?
- How do they rank for popular keywords in Google search?
- What do their Google or Yelp reviews say?
You should be able to find the answers to these questions and draw some basic conclusions in an hour at most. In this way, you’ll have a bird’s eye view of what you’re up against, without making yourself paralyzed by fear.
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