Obsess about Your Customers, Not Your Competitors

Do you spend a lot of time watching what your competitors are doing? If so, it might be time for a re-think. It's summer time in Australia, and for many of us in business, it represents an opportunity for down-time and reflection that we don't get time for during the year. It's tempting to spend that time in contemplation of what competitors are doing — but if you do this, it will only make you crazy.

We all present the best and shiniest face of ourselves to the public. So if you're trolling competitors' websites, looking at their social media feeds and everything that they're putting out publicly, it's likely that what it looks like they're doing is a lot shinier and more impressive than what they actually are doing.

At best this is historical (and sometimes aspirational) information, and at worst it’s simply fiction — not to mention a huge waste black hole of wasted time and effort.

I've worked with companies in industries where every player focuses obsessively on their competitors, and it is a great way to get a headache, not a customer.  This makes perfect sense when you think about it. If everybody in your industry is spending time watching each other, then who is looking at what the market is struggling with or asking for?

So, if you are planning to spend this summer developing your strategy for 2014, start by looking at what your market and your customers are doing. What did they achieve last year? What are they looking to do in 2014? Where are there gaps that you can help them with?

Focus on your customers and what you can do for them — not your competitors — because that's where true competitive differentiation (and sales) actually come from.