Your competitors are only human

A nice post on The Sales Blog called Respect, Not Fear might make you think about how you’ve come to view your competitors. I talk to so many companies where competitors are viewed with contempt and yet – simultaneously – seen as some sort of infallible sales and marketing machine which must be matched at all costs. The exhibition industry propped itself up for years on the back of this. Get one of a select few companies to take a stand, and all their competitors would flock to book stands too, on the basis that the one company which had signed up knew something they didn’t.

Many years ago, I asked a marketing manager why she seemed so concerned about matching all the initiatives taken by one particular competitor. I pointed out that I knew the marketing director there, and he’d never struck me as being, er, particularly go-ahead. To my surprise, she replied: “I know, I talk to him regularly at our trade association meetings. You’re being rather kind with that description, in my opinion.” So why did she track what he was up to so closely? Fear. Don’t get sucked into it.

Discussion

  1. Andy Pye

    It’s a good blog that. Especially the way he links in previous blog posts so professionally – and so frequently!

    This thing about competitors is a fascinating area, especially big competitors.

    Big competitors normally keep on doing well (or at least moderately well) what they’ve always been doing. Pro-Talk was a case in point – all the big competitors carried on doing what they’d always done – producing product books and measuring each other’s success. Nobody looked at us. In fact, they even recruit staff to ensure that’s what they do best – no mavericks, no individuals, aptitude tests, selection boards, staff appraisals, pension funds, IT security controls – everything to stifle originality and keep people driving down the centre of the road.

    Therefore, with small companies, the key is to be different, not be sucked into trying to do the same thing as them. That’s the one area where you can never succeed, because the one thing they have in greater supply is resource to throw at the problem.

    Now, all the big competitors in our business are producing online publications, so how to be different is the way forward.

    Henry Ford succeeded by producing motor cars when everyone in the transport business was trying to breed the fittest horses.

    That’s my three-penneth for today.

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