When is good advice bad? It is bad when it does not fit or does not help. We hear how important it is to know your competitors. You need to know how they work, what they do, their pricing, advertising and staffing policies including compensation, so you can line up and do battle.
If you are Coke, Pepsi, Wal-Mart or Target, knowing your competitor well may be important. These BIG B2C (Businesses selling to end Customers) companies are selling commodities. Knowing more about your competitor who looks a lot like you and is selling almost the exact same things you are selling to the exact same customer you sell to may be helpful. In the case where the customer is buying commodities, they know what they want to buy, they are clear about the buying experience they want and have decided what they are willing to pay – competition matters.
This B2C world is highly competitive with lots of margin pressure from buyers who understand what they are willing to pay for. The only thing the buyer needs from you is your price and the availability of the product – anything else is a frill.
Now what if you are not Coke, Pepsi, Wal-Mart or Target do the same rules apply? The answer is almost ALWAYS NO.
If you are a small, midsized, high value, Intellectual Property enhanced business partner or any other organization that sells products or services enhanced by value that makes the buyer better off or a B2B (Business selling to other Businesses) company selling anything other than a pure commodity the answer should be NO. If any of these describe you then you have ONE goal.
Your ONE goal is to delight your customer and if the customer is a B2B customer the goal is to delight them while making them more money.
All this conversation about knowing our competitors ends up with companies looking like their competitors with minor (from the buyer’s view very minor) differences. We become what we think about and focus on, so we become our competitor with a different logo. To the customer we have commoditized ourselves and our market to the point we are all pretty much the same and we want to do that WHY?
One of the best examples of customer focus that results in DELIGHT is Apple. They actually spend a much smaller percent of their budget on R&D than other big players. They are not busy trying to be like their competitors only better. Apple spends their time thinking like a customer and solving problems for the customer – many of the problems Apple solves are problems the customer could not imagine had solutions. What is the result? The result is customer DELIGHT, a long-term relationship and Apple is the most valuable company in the world.
Almost no one truly delights their customer! When delight does occur, the world broadcasts how cool that is. Just think about the books about Apple, Nordstrom’s, Disney and the few other organizations that deliver delight.
Business is hard no matter what your strategy, or market or your offers in the market. Since it will always be hard why not put your effort into what will result in the biggest possible win for you and your customer?
When you spend your time learning about and focusing on your competitor, you look like a commodity, which is hard, and normally risky, marginally profitable and joyless – maybe you should consider spending the same effort on how to delight your customer.
When you delight your customer, your world will get easier. The customer who trusts you will help you delight them, they will pay you more for delight (ask Apple) than for the commodity, your team will have more fun, you will be adding value not just selling stuff and maybe more important, when you delight your customer you and your company experience not just more profit, but delight.
Stop worrying about competitors and they will start worrying about you. Start delighting your customer and they will start helping you.
It is your choice where you focus and what you get. You might want to remember competitors NEVER buy anything from you so who should you concentrate on?
What do you think?
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