Archives for posts with tag: Competition

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Many businesses believe they have a few competitors. Banks believe their competition are other financial institutions and technology providers. Automotive companies believe their competitors are other car companies. Airlines believe their competitors are airlines and other transportation providers.

There’s one competitor that transcends vertical, demographics and psychographics.

This competitor is always around, waiting to strike. This competitor has no conscience. It can destroy your business.

The competitor is nothing. More specifically, doing nothing.

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Customer have unlimited choices when it comes to media. Above is just the Social Media landscape. Add to that thousands of radio stations, satellite radio, newspapers, magazines, books, ebooks, hundreds of TV channels.

When you have so many choices, there’s always the choice to do nothing.

An increasing number of people are choosing that path. Faced with this deluge of opportunities, many people become overwhelmed and decide not to make any decisions.

What are you going to do about it?

Whenever you’re planning your new website, write the brochure copy, program your social channels – remember the real competitor waiting in the darkness, telling your customers to avoid risk and just do nothing.

You have to plan for it.

You have to prepare for it.

And then find out why people left the darkness and joined your light.

There’s always a reason why people decide to move from doing nothing to taking action.

You have to uncover it.

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When my father died a few years back, I spent a long time reliving the past. Many days were spent re-imagining my past. See, I didn’t speak to my father for 15 years. I had opportunities to do so, I knew his phone number, his address, I even stood in front of my old home in Germany 10 years ago but I couldn’t bring myself to ring the bell. I was imagining a past where I rang the bell, picked up the phone and dialed.

When I stopped imagining a different past, I moved on to rationalizing, explaining and finding excuses why I never did what I should have done. You know “My childhood” or “He was supposed to take the first step”. I tried to externalize what was going on, and make it about this or that, as if somehow I hadn’t made the decisions all along.

What is past is prologue – William Shakespeare

We do our best. Until we know better. Focusing on what we should have done, doesn’t change the past.

I write about failures, innovation and taking risks a lot. I know it’s the right thing to do. I know this is the only way to survive in this hyper-competitive world. Still, my heart is not always in it. It’s so much more comfortable not to grow. Actually, I want to grow. But I just want the end product, not going through the process. It leaves me in uncomfortable situations, makes me feel less at home in my skin. I do have to accept that I know nothing while knowing so much and then start all over again, learning, figuring things out, trying new paths, falling down, getting up and experience those new skills to become part of my natural self.

The real challenge is to live with uncertainty. We want to know that if we’re trying something new, it’ll actually work. We know the past. We study the past. We know everything about it, what went wrong. What went right. We can’t study the future. The future is about the unknown. We don’t know if we try something, we’ll be good at it. We might suck. Or become the best in the world. No guarantees, no guidebook, no maps. Maybe we just fail in new ways. Who the hell wants to fail again? My ego might get hurt. People might look down on me. Consider me a failure.

I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past – Thomas Jefferson

We’re living in uncomfortable times. Everything around us screams “change”. Every sign tells us doing business the way it was done the last few decades doesn’t work anymore. The whole culture pokes and tells us to start doing unknown stuff. Still, we tend to think “What if it doesn’t work out, why not stick with what we already know? It doesn’t work that well anymore but it’s doing okay.”

We love to stay in the place we know. It’s so much easier to keep doing the thing we know to do. We are good at rationalizing these choices. That’s why we find all sorts of excuses: “Let’s not be the first to do it. Let others make mistakes first and we learn from them, just to do it better.” There are some good arguments there, no doubt. In the end, these excuses are just there to mask the fear of change. Fear of the unknown. Fear to face discomfort.

Discovering new ways and new opportunities is risky. We need to put down the comfort food, throw away the pillows, the padding. We need to suck it up. Start the hard work of learning new skills, experimenting with new things. We don’t know if we will succeed. There are no guarantees. Waiting, holding out will not change the present. You know what choices you have to make. Gather the courage and do it now.

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I love to run.

When I started running marathons, I used to focus on one person I wanted to beat. I just ran them into the ground. Until I passed them and I had to find another competitor to beat.

That worked well for a few miles but around Mile 15, I lost my stride and focus. Putting all my effort into beating the competition, made me forget to focus on the little things: My posture, the stride, breathing, my mental state, my exhaustion level. All have to be fine-tuned while running or Mile 22 will became the torture mile.

That’s a very common mistake

Very common for brands, organizations and people. We focus so much on the competition that we lose sight of our mission, vision and performance.

It happened to Toyota when they were focused on beating GM.

We need to use competition to improve ourselves. The competition is there to help us be better, learn from them. What are they doing right in marketing and product development? How are they dealing with customer services challenges? What decisions are turning customers into ex-customers? Collect all of them and delight them with your product/service. Don’t be ruthless against your competition. But ruthless when it comes to your brand. Ruthlessly improving.

When I run now, I focus on myself and try to learn from other fellow runners at the same time. Once I learned enough, I’ll pass them.

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I’m amazed at how many brands and agencies think their competitors are only the ones who operate within their category. I’m even more amazed that brands and agencies tend to focus on one competitor as the one to watch.

Toyota vs Honda.

American Airlines vs Delta.

Colgate vs Crest.

Clearly, brands love to create this one enemy that will focus energy of the team and makes it easier for the public to create a faux war of brands: (Who is better? Michael Jackson or Prince?) While I see the benefits, I tend to believe that it’s not good enough to know who you consider as a competitor. You need to understand who considers you as a competitor.

Barnes & Noble vs Borders

While both brands were engaged in an intense turf war, Amazon stole their lunch. Forcing one into bankruptcy and the other brand to wonder: How did that happen?

Toyota was regarding GM as their biggest competitor. Honda saw Toyota the same way. Who’s outselling Honda now? Hyundai.

All the big networks were engaging in a battle for viewers while cable networks started to develop their own drama shows. Oh, and this little company called Netflix changed the game even more dramatically.

Your competition is anything that causes your customers not to buy your product/service. It’s anything that erodes or explodes your competitive advantage. It may not even exist today, but it could mean you won’t exist tomorrow.

In the end, you need to focus on improving your product/service every day and ensure that your source of competitive advantage remains robust and relevant. If you focus on the ‘competition’, you may forget to focus on your customers, and it is they who ultimately manage your brand. Brands often make choices that are more influenced by what their competitors are doing rather than what their customers want. Too many people regard differentiation as being different from their competitors, but it’s not much use if in your quest to forge your own identity, you do things people don’t want, don’t desire, don’t buy.

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