About a year ago I asked the founder of a very successful start-up in Utah how he had positioned his company in comparison to the competition. His response was instructive; he said that they hadn’t focused on the competition much at all, but on the value their products delivered to customers. He asked himself what problem his product solved and how they could solve the current problem better.
Stop Obsessing Over Your Competition!
So why do we focus so much on the competition? It’s because it’s hard not to. You might think to yourself, “Obviously they are doing something right or else they would not be a threat to me. So what are they doing right that I’m not?” This is counter-productive from a product perspective because your sales aren’t influenced by how well you can mimic someone else’s business model, but rather on how well you are satisfying customers’ needs. There are no customers standing there in the store, comparing products and thinking, “How does the company who made this one compare to the company who made this other one?” Instead, they are considering which product is going to solve their problem better. It’s all about value—value that is created either through solving the express need or satisfying the emotional need. Either way, you need to make sure that your customers are highly satisfied.
Ask Yourself the Right Questions
A great question that marketing teaches us to answer is what problem are we solving, and what are all of the needs that require satisfying?
Let’s take a Lamborghini, for example. A practical thinking, like myself, would view the problem that a Lamborghini solves as a need to get from point A to point B—so there are much less costly alternatives. So why is a Lamborghini so popular and sought after? What additional needs is the car satisfying? Perhaps a customer wants to get from point A to point B much faster, or in more comfort, or in braggable style. Either way, as we consider the various needs that this type of product may satisfy, we can start to understand why a Lamborghini stopped looking to its competition decades ago in the race to make an automobile for the average customer.
The real secret boils down to understanding your customer, their specific quantifiable and emotional needs that you might be able to help them with. Once you’ve identified those needs, assess your ability to satisfy those needs, and determine which set of needs you want to tackle. Focus all of your energy on perfecting the product or service (and the marketing messaging) that delivers on your promise to satisfy those needs. This effort is time much better spent than mimicking or comparing against the competition.