Lead, follow or get out of the way. When it comes to your competition, if you’re spending too much time and energy watching the competition, you’re just following them. Or, at best, you’re looking laterally at business opportunities in an attempt to keep up.
In Good to Great, Jim Collins writes that great company leaders never talked about competitive strategy. They were not focused on what competitors were doing, but on getting the right people in the business and on excelling at their core competencies.
One way to lead in your marketplace is to know what your customers need that they can’t get now. Another way to lead is to stay ahead of opportunities for your business and your industry, because sometimes your customers don’t know what they need. They don’t know what they don’t know. It’s up to you to tell them.
W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne take this a step further in their book Blue Ocean Strategy. Companies that find their blue ocean of opportunity (bypassing the bloody red ocean of competition) can do so by looking at applying their product or service to non-customers. They may be able to gain new market share that competitors don’t have.
So don’t waste a lot of energy on the competition. Know where they are at and what they offer. But look to customers and even non-customers to expand your markets.