You want to stay ahead in the race. They’ll outrun you, if not.
Digging in, you compare pricing, scour features and service differences, set up Google alerts, rifle through job postings.
The gray area of shaking down the competitor’s customers for loose receipts, and other promisingly enlightening, but dubious, strategies beckon to you.
Then as quickly as you put in the (incomplete) data on the competition—it changes.
Your competitive intelligence report becomes a sieve, with outdated features, prices, and insights wafting to the floor below.
But while you were constantly looking side-to-side at the competition, you missed that the terrain had changed, and the finish line had moved.
And your pace slowed.
Don’t Let Competitive Intelligence Weigh You Down
You know that competitive intelligence is time-consuming, as well as hard to obtain, ensure accuracy, and keep updated.
Plus leading to the dark side of bashing the competition in front of prospective customers.
But you’ve got some stories nagging in the back of your mind.
“Our competition came out with a product/feature we didn’t expect, and nearly put us out of business!”
“The competitors were cutting into our market share with an alternate partnership plan, and with our growth at the time, we didn’t see that we were losing customers as fast as we were gaining.”
But if you weren’t doing that previously— And none of the competition was doing that previously— Then no one produced that offering through competitive intelligence.
They produced it through customer intelligence.
They produced it through thinking like a startup, looking at how to solve problems, meet needs, not by looking around at the other runners. If you had been doing that, you would have been meeting customer needs ahead of the competition.
Don’t Run to Beat the Competition, Run to Meet the Customer
You could spend a lot of time learning about all the offerings your competitor has that you don’t.
But paying too much attention to the other runners, or let’s say, the other B2B SaaS companies in the industry, could end up as the very reason that you trip and fall. Focusing on your value in comparison to the competitor—instead of the value you provide the customer.
Instead of spending too much time looking side-to-side while running, put emphasis on customer intelligence.
Learning and understanding the customer is a better key to propelling your business forward. Running with your eyes forward, watching the landscape and your goal. When customer intelligence is placed at the forefront of your strategy, then you outpace the competition.
Achieving this outpacing also requires meeting customer needs with a fresh approach.
Don’t Run Better Than Competition, Run Better
As pointed out by Simon Sinek, “the companies that are doing a good job of pivoting are saying: ‘OK, throw the old playbook out and let’s pretend we’re a startup. How would we start up our business today?’”
Urban Outfitters addressed customer desires for inspiration by hiring artists to manage their stores, instead of business people. Each one had the autonomy to design the store interior, which meant walking into an Urban Outfitters guaranteed a break from the monotony of other retailers, who all looked the same.
Customers learned that walking into an Urban Outfitters meant choosing a new experience each time.
Bottom line? UO raised revenue by 500% in the last 10 years. The success came from looking at the customer needs and business goals with fresh eyes, not inspired from competitive intelligence.
So it sounds a little like you don’t need competitive intelligence to succeed, right?
What You Really Need to Know About Your Competition
Yes, you do need to know some, but you need to create a limit.
Instead of digging through receipts, try for a high-level understanding of the landscape and one positioning nugget for core comp, perhaps a basic comparison checklist of features and pricing. Unless you get into a deep head-to-head battle with a competitor with a customer and the customer is asking you to compare and differentiate, the above mentioned is all you’ll need.
In general, marketing and sales can do a better job of reconnaissance of information from existing and potential customers. And ultimately, most SMB in the B2B realm need to hone in on running their own business.
If your business is struggling, or you worry the competition may outpace you, turn to your customers.
Working to first know your customer will empower you to address their needs and wants in a fresh way, one that your competition hasn’t already done.