Saturday, August 23, 2008

Competitors defined

One of the tricks successful businesses use is gathering competitive intelligence. Industry conferences are one source, as are relevant associations and organizations that collect and disseminate industry news. Another great source, if you can get them to talk, are your prospective clients. One way or another, you need to find out who else you'll be bumping into in the lobbies and what their story is.

I have a philosophy about competitors (if you haven't noticed yet, I have a philosophy about lots of things...). They are only competitors if you allow them to be. Sure, you may be selling similar products or services. But are you really? What you are selling are your ideas, your expertise, your customer service--basically, you are selling your talent and the talent of the other people of in your company. That's what your competitors are selling too. All the more reason to aim to hire rockstars and not accept mediocrity.

If you don't think you're better than your competitors, close up shop and cut your losses. If your ideas or talent aren't as good, your only hope is to be able to position yourself better. That may work for awhile. Eventually, though, the truth will be revealed.

Bottom line, you need to believe you're better than everyone else, walk the walk and talk the talk. If you're always chasing a competitor, you'll always be behind. Better to let them be chasing you.

And ultimately, YOU define who your competition is. Don't let others define this for you. Know what the differentiators are and be able to explain them. And whenever possible, play nice on the playground. It's always better to be able to give a wink and a nod to those other companies waiting in the lobbies.

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