No matter how small or big one’s business is – we often tend to be obsessed with what our competition is doing. Naturally, this is all about staying in business and based around the thinking that if you ignore your competition; they may steal opportunities away from you and then who knows what could happen.
Competition could be a simple as another electrician providing similar installation services to you or perhaps, a fast growing engineering design consultancy with similar services to what your firm offers to thousands of clients throughout the world.
However, a point made by the strategist, Tara-Nicolle Nelson, is that this focus on one’s competitors is too distracting – we should be unerringly focused on solving our customers’ day-to-day challenges and problems. By paying all our attention to our customer, the thinking goes, we will uncover unique solutions to their problems and thus our business will flourish. If we are concerned about what our competition is doing – we could end up becoming clones of them or pursuing issues which they may mistakenly believe are important and their clients couldn’t care less about.
Who is your Competition?
So, in reality, your competition is essentially every challenge your customer is facing in the area in which you operate. Your customer isn’t obsessed with who your competitors are but how they can effectively tackle the problems they are currently facing.
For example, if you are a control systems integrator providing process control services in the mineral processing area, you will probably keep a weather eye on who else is offering these services and what they are currently doing. However, it would be better to focus on the day-to-day problems your customers are having in this area and working out ways to help them more effectively and affordably. For example, your competitors may be working on launching new control hardware which a particular set of clients isn’t that interested in. These clients may be more worried about some awkward process problems caused by more stringent environmental regulations which they are wrestling with.
Without a Doubt
There is always a basic requirement to understand what one’s competitors are doing and how their products are addressing the market. But avoid becoming a ‘me too’ company.
A few suggestions on applying this to your business strategies:
- Don’t obsess with competition but on what your clients’ problems and challenges are.
- Rethink your product or service into what the clients’ challenges are.
- Visualise your clients as real people primarily with real challenges which require effective solutions.
Ben Cohen, Co-Founder Ben & Jerry's remarked: "There is a spiritual aspect to our lives -- when we give, we receive -- when a business does something good for somebody, that somebody feels good about them!"
Thanks to Tara-Nicolle Nelson for an interesting article entitled: Obsess Over Your Customers, Not Your Rivals in the Harvard Business Review.
Yours in engineering learning