Written by Vivek Jaiswal | Co-founder, Customer Guru
“The problem with competition is that, it takes away the requirement to set your own path, to invent your own method, to find a new way.”- Seth Godin
All through our lives, we have been exposed to all sorts of comparisons and competitions in pursuit of making ourselves better. It is a good pressure for both parties: the one who is compared with and the one who is being compared. As we grow, this attitude grows with us, and percolates to our professional life too. Don’t get me wrong, competition is good and even healthy, because it pushes us to improve ourselves. Similarly, organisations face stiff competition trying to get market share and better profit margins. It is inevitable to stress over what your competition is up to. However, you shouldn’t lose sight of the very reason why you are in business – your customers. How many companies would ignore the competition and develop a product that their customers had a need for it but there is no market for it yet? Very few actually. The pivotal reason being, it is easier to follow a crowd rather than make our own path.
There are number of reasons why one should really not obsess over their competition but pay attention to their customers. Here are a few.
The one who needs your attention is your customers, not your competitors
Customers today, are willing to try different products in pursuit of better experience and quality. Instead of grabbing this golden opportunity and investing more time and attention on studying their behavioural pattern, most of us are busy studying that of our competitors’. A customer weighs our personal interactions with them more than where we stand in the rat race. If anything, it’s our customers who carry us to the top, provided they are convinced that we are insanely focussed on making them happy, even if that means forgetting the competition completely.
Aping is effortless but it won’t get you customer loyalty
When we try to do what other companies do, we become just one among the sea of them all. Naturally, we end up being one amongst the hundred options for a customer to try out. We cannot expect any kind of loyalty from our ‘touch and go’ customers for we haven’t given them any reason to stay. Following the trend might get us noticed but not for long. We must recognise our uniqueness and materialise exactly that to attract loyal customers. Apps like Instagram, Pinterest and Flickr are all photo sharing apps. But each of them have their own following for their uniqueness – Instagram for the polaroid format and filters, Pinterest for the innovative virtual board concept, and Flickr for its crisp and sharp auto post processing of the uploaded images.
Customers are very sensitive to originality and look forward to being a part of the extra-ordinary.
Staying inspired produces better results than staying competitive
Sure, there are some companies we look up to. Their products act as a platform for us to develop something new. But that is like walking on thin ice. We can either look at it as a seed to develop something brand new that has nothing in common with the reference product, or we could plain mash it up to produce the same product in some other form. Just that the latter would make us look like a duplicate in the eyes of our customers and we wouldn’t want that.
Our greatest source of inspiration is our customers themselves! Working on their feedbacks and maintaining a one to one relationship with each of them alone could produce laudable results.
“Companies that solely focus on competition will ultimately die. Those that focus on the value creation will thrive” – Edward de Bono
Each one of us have the potential to bring about a positive change in our own way. It is indeed a risk to find our own path. It is that immense self-confidence that shines through us and makes people take notice, not the tendency to join the competition driven crowd. Competition is healthy only if it is with our own selves. To be better than we were yesterday is the true mark of progress and inspiration.