Many companies are quite obsessive about monitoring what their competitors are doing. While it’s essential to know what your customers are being offered by other suppliers, the biggest danger is to underestimate yourself and to assume that your competitors know better than you do. There’s no particular reason to believe that. It’s particularly easy for small companies to assume that big multinational market leaders are experts, and that you need to watch and learn from them. Similarly, large businesses often look enviously at the flexibility and initiative being shown by small competitors, and try to work out ways they can follow. I’ve worked with companies of all sizes, and many of you will have been employed by both. When you’ve seen both sides, you’ll know that one isn’t necessarily better than the other. When I think of the best marketing managers, sales directors or even design engineers I’ve known, there’s no pattern to the size or type of the businesses they work for.
The biggest insight you can get from studying your competitors is, I believe, to understand how you can differentiate yourself from them, not copy them. That’s what’ll make you seem really interesting to prospects.