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Should You Follow Your Competitors’ Footsteps?

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I often hear people tell me about something their competitors are doing that they’d like to do as well. Interestingly enough, though, many times they don’t have a clue whether or not this new thing is actually helping their competitors grow, or make money.

Jeff Bezos once said, “Don’t focus on the competition; they’ll never give you money.”  I am pretty sure Bezos knows everything he needs to know about his competitors, but he doesn’t model on them.

Trying to copy someone else’s formula of success (or what you think might be successful for them) can be very tempting. The truth is, though, that your competitors may not have a concrete reason for doing what they are doing.

You’d be surprised to find out how often we hear marketers and administrators telling us that they’ve developed a certain way of doing things without any in-depth planning or strategy to back up their decisions. So unless you can prove your competitors’ success based on hard facts (and it is hard to get good intelligence on our competitors’ strategies), there’s a good chance that what you deem to be their ‘success’ is merely your personal perception.  I am a firm believer of numbers, because they don’t lie.

It is quite important to keep up with your industry and competition, but it is even more important to use your business knowledge to create an innovative strategy that can be sustained and will help your business grow.  Strategy is what makes a business successful.  Think of all the profitable and long-lasting brands you know.  Now, think about how each of them have developed their own market strategies, and how they have innovated through the years to remain successful.  My favorite example is GE – how can a business founded in 1892 still be the 14th most profitable company in the U.S. today?  I bet it wasn’t by copying what others were doing – because GE is also considered the 19th most innovative company in the U.S., and the 5th most recognized brand in the world, according to Fast Company.

Being a small business owner, I often wonder how my competitors are doing, and what works and doesn’t work for them, but I base my own decisions on what has worked for my company, on my available resources, and on my business goals.  Competition is a great way to keep us on our toes, always striving to do a better job. You’ve got to a have a differentiator, though, something that sets you apart from the guy down the street – and there is where innovation comes into play.

Because strategy is such an important part of a business success, between November 8th and November 22nd, I will be offering three free breakfast workshops (7-9:00 am at Pulse Marketing Agency) designed to help local entrepreneurs and nonprofit organizations develop strong marketing plans for a prosperous 2014. Each 2-hour session will focus on B2C, nonprofit, and B2B marketing strategies respectively, giving local organizations the opportunity to build unique, flexible marketing plans for the upcoming year – or to revamp their existing plans.  Each session is limited to five attendees (organizations) only.

If you’d like to join me for coffee and talk about strategy, call (207)947-9333 to reserve your seat.  And stop obsessing about what your competitors are doing! What matters is that what you’re doing is well-though-out, good for your business and for your customers, and most importantly, working. 

Remember: the grass is not always greener on the other side.  It’s greener where you water and fertilize it!

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