How to Succeed by Learning from Your Competitors
Want to get better at doing business?
Start paying more attention to your competitors.
I know what you’ve heard: Don’t focus on the competition, just focus on yourself. I understand the sentiment: be authentically you; don’t worry about copycatting anybody else.
But ultimately, this adage just becomes an excuse.
Your competitors are a goldmine of information—and ignoring that goldmine is just plain lazy.
Why Competitors Are the Answer to Your Problems
Why is it so important to understand the competition?
Not so you can beat them (that matters for some people, but not everyone).
The reason competitors are important is simple. They’ve already solved most of the problems you are trying to solve in your business.
One of your competitors has figured out the right org structure for your type of business.
Another has nailed the compensation model that will best motivate the team.
Yet another is already using the software that could significantly streamline your operations.
Would you prefer to reinvent the wheel? Or learn, and borrow from, what others are doing that’s already working?
3 Ways to Scope Out the Competition
There are three simple ways to check out what your competition is up to. And two of them don’t require talking to anyone about money, so there’s really no excuse not to try them out:
1. Direct research.
This is as easy as it sounds. Make a list of your competitors. Go to their websites. See what you can find out about their messaging, their offers, even their business model. Pro tip: check out their Careers page and job postings as well. You can gain insight into how the company is set up based on the positions they advertise.
2. Market research.
If you want a stat on your industry as a whole, pop over to our good friend Google and type your query into the search bar. You can get answers to questions like: “profit margins for [my industry]” or “average CEO compensation for $10M business.” You may need to play with some variations on your question and skim through a few resources, but you’ll get some basic information about general trends that can be invaluable.
3. Competitor conversations.
In my opinion, the best approach is to talk to the competition directly. These conversations will allow you to ask specific questions, get detailed answers, and maybe even identify opportunities for partnership or collaboration. Not every competitor will be open to this type of discussion, but some certainly will be. When in doubt, approach the subject by being vulnerable yourself—it doesn’t hurt to feed their ego a bit by humbly asking for advice.
If you’re caught up in an echo chamber about what steps your business needs to take next—and especially if you are struggling with strategy or your business model—you need to explore what the competition is doing ASAP.
Let me know if our consulting team can help you with competitor research or working on your business strategy. We’re standing by to support you.