What You Can Learn From Your Competition

There seems to be something inherent to the American business narrative that lends itself to rivalry views on competition. Maybe it’s our affinity for Western’s, “This town ain’t big enough for the both of us,” and the like. Maybe it’s our love of sports, which seem to revolve around divisional rivalries, cross-town rivalries, even sibling rivalries. Then again, it could just be that we are a nation of dichotomies. You’re either with me or against me. Democrat or Republican. My way or the highway. Coke or Pepsi.

But, let’s pause for a second and take a closer look at some of these dichotomies. Aren’t Coke and Pepsi both doing just fine? Without getting on a political soapbox, isn’t the country’s ideal one where Democrats and Republicans can both reach across the aisle and find common ground, while still providing checks and balances on each other?

Consumers and audiences are more sophisticated than we give them credit for. People can like more than one thing. Twitter’s popularity doesn’t come at Facebook’s expense. We can stream great TV shows and movies on both Netflix and Amazon. Maybe this town is, in fact, big enough for the both of us.

That isn’t all to say that competition isn’t a real thing. Of course, it’s very real. And if you, as a business, don’t establish what is unique and wonderful about your brand and your products, your competition will surely sink you. But competition and co-existence are not mutually exclusive. In fact, competing businesses can very much benefit each other, and can drive great advancements and innovation (in addition to being a key component to a capitalist marketplace).

How can competing businesses benefit each other? By digging into the differences.

If you are looking at your competition and thinking only about how you can undercut their prices, you are sorely missing the point – in addition to creating a price-war, which is really just a race to the bottom that hurts everybody.

Instead, take a closer look at your competition. What are they doing well? You can learn from those successes. But more importantly, what are they doing poorly? Do you see their customers frustrated over a lack of certain services, or poor customer service, or a poor user experience on their website? By finding ways to take your competition’s shortcomings and turn them into your company’s greatest strengths, you can establish a niche and be able to attract customers with a different set of values – even if you never have a hope of beating your competition in price.

As an example, take a look at two of the biggest mobile phone services providers in the U.S., Verizon and T-Mobile. Verizon boasts that they have the best and widest coverage of service. T-Mobile also has great coverage, but has struggled to compete head-to-head with Verizon on that point. They did, however, notice that customers were frustrated with Verizon and the lack of unlimited data options. So, T-Mobile began offering unlimited data packages, as well as offering unlimited music and video streaming under various promotions. Not only is this a significant difference between the two companies, it has also become central to T-Mobile’s business strategy, and at the core of their marketing efforts.

There are dozens of examples of companies capitalizing on the weaknesses of their competition. The key, though, is to use these differences to create a strength for yourself, as opposed to looking at it as some kind of shot at your competition. Chances are, there’s probably enough business to go around. 

Need help determining your differentiators and building a marketing and overall business strategy around those findings? Contact 10twelve for a free 30-minute business strategy session.