Same as ever, do not focus on your competition

For twenty years, I’ve been telling clients to not worry about their competition. While counter-intuitive to the non-athlete, athletes in competition know it’s a basic given. You can’t control your competitors.

There is literally no benefit in focusing your energy on the competition, because there is nothing you can do about their preparedness or actions. The sole entity you can affect is you.

The truth is that in any given space, where a quantifiable common need has been defined, and solutions have been offered, there is enough business to sustain the relevant offerings. Rather than focusing on competition, focus on yourself and on your customers, for those are the only entities that matter in the success equation.

It is smart to have an awareness of competition because it keeps you creative and motivated. Awareness is as simple as knowing they exist. Anything beyond that may border on obsession, but more likely just wastes time and energy. Sometimes it wastes budget too, particularly when companies spend ad dollars on representation in those mediums where competitors are spending.

True competition is rare in business. When partners split, yes, there may be similar offerings. But when two or three unrelated companies spring up in one market, success often comes down to what people want and what the company wants. Alignment and consistency of effort pay off, but the more common actions of losing focus and derailing consistency result in failure.

People complain of lesser competitors undercutting price and eroding their market. This is not a reason to focus on competition. If your product can be commoditized, you have to plan for that eventuality to be ready for what comes when it happens.

At the point when your product is copied and commoditized, there are other problems at play than just transitioning to being a commodity, which include planning, really understanding the intricacies of your market, implementation, focus, and accuracy of long-term vision.

The rub is, what a company wants, how it stays true, and what is its longevity vision (not all offerings can be long-term), often guides companies well off course. When you get off course, focus is lost. When focus is lost, it is easy to try to refocus by training attention on competition, because competitors who have maintained their focus and attained resultant success are leaders. And we all look to leaders for inspiration.

Imitating a leader is seemingly easier than being original. But the truth is the opposite. You can’t gain positive attention by being an also-ran.

The key to success is believing in your brand, knowing yourself, and having the confidence in your direction and marketing to know that your path is true. It is an investment in self rather than in competition.

If your mission and brand are true to your market, when you are true to yourself, you are inherently true to your own people. In fact, when it is done right, your market is actually part of you. If you have the self-discipline to keep that focus on the self, you have what you need to succeed, without placing focus on your competition.

Kelly Hobkirk - teaching marketers how to harness strategy, goals, reality, and purpose to connect and do better work.


Kelly Hobkirk has been helping companies succeed in creative ways for nearly 25 years. His work has been featured in Time Magazine, and books by Rockport and Rotovision. Get exclusive articles when you sign up for his monthly newsletter.

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