How much attention do you pay your competitors? Here’s a cautionary tale about treading the fine line between too much and not enough.
At a recent networking event, I ran into someone I once worked with who kindly told me they’d learned a lot from me. They even mentioned that they’d taken something I said to heart when they started their own business. Very flattering stuff. But what the heck did I say?
It turned out to be something I’d said at a sales conference, which I’d considered to be a throwaway line.
I was pointing out our company’s unique selling propositions (USPs) and the significant differences between us and them. In doing so I referred to our competitors not by their business name but simply as ‘The Opposition’, pointing out that this was a deliberate move on my part when coaching or presenting to sales staff.
Simply put, it was a strategy designed to make sure I didn’t give The Opposition’s brand any oxygen at all, and was meant to imply that using the competitor company’s name when discussing why we were different and better was adding a tiny bit of fuel to their marketing fire and, in most cases, was unnecessary.
When talking to networking contacts or clients I’m often asked who my competitors are, demonstrating that while The Opposition may be a bigger company, they clearly don’t have the presence in the market that some might assume. Why should I draw attention to them when promoting my own business?
Unfortunately the person I bumped into at that networking event had misinterpreted my words. Based on what they thought I’d meant all those years ago, they were ignoring what Their Opposition was doing and instead focussing entirely on their own business, which wasn’t what I had intended at all.
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To make matters worse, unbeknownst to my colleague, Their Opposition had recently started networking and marketing themselves differently – something I was aware of only by fluke.
So, to set the record straight, you SHOULD be aware of what Your Opposition is doing. Focus on your own business by all means, but also be aware of what Your Opposition offers, how they market themselves and how they interact with existing and potential clients.
Along the way, you might learn something, especially if they’re gaining clients or their business is growing at a faster rate than yours.
After all, copyright and trademark laws stop you from using Your Opposition’s brand and intellectual property, but they don’t stop you from learning from them and adopting their good practices – or exceeding them with your own.
How close an eye do you keep on Your Competition? Have they taught you anything lately?