How to Use Your Competitors to Become More Successful

My husband, Mark, is a writer…

And this week, with a new book being published, he’s gone in to one of his OBSESSIVE modes!

He’s constantly refreshing his Internet browser to look at his sales rankings and becoming incredibly competitive regarding what other writers are having published and how their titles are doing compared to his.

As he wrote on his blog this week:

“‘Wow! Just had some v exciting news’, tweets one of your writer peers. ‘Can’t wait to share!’?…

‘What is it?’ you seethe. A new book deal? Six figures? Seven figures? Oh God, please not a film deal. The rights have probably been snapped up by Spielberg. Nicole Kidman is going to star in it. The jammy, flukey, undeserving bastard. Their agent is obviously so much better than yours. What have you done to deserve this?”

I am forever telling him to calm down and chill out; but, actually, I think it’s pretty great that he’s so competitive.

It shows how much he cares about what he’s doing – and some healthy competition never hurt any of us.

Something that we talk about often in Internet Income Detective is how you need to find your own ‘space’ within a niche: to have an edge, be different; and to be very careful with niche selection to ensure that you don’t go in to a field that’s oversaturated.

Many of you email me asking what that all-elusive ‘edge’ is all about and how you can get ‘it’.

Well, my theory is that an edge can be almost entirely be achieved by knowing and using your knowledge regarding your competition.

In short, know what they are doing and then do it better.

?To be competitive or not?

There are two extremes when it comes to managing your business competition. At one end you get those who say they never think about the competition – they’re focusing on themselves and their own growth and goals.

At the opposite extreme you get those who go to great extremes to reverse-engineer their competition’s products and sales systems, analyse their stats, run comparisons and even spy on the competition.

Somewhere in between is the land of common sense. You should neither be totally unaware of your competition nor obsessed with them.

It’s simplistic to say you can never manage the competition: you can only manage yourself.

There are many ways you can use your competition (and keep an eye on them) which will not only make you a better person, but improve your conversions.

??Getting rid of subjective emotions

One classic mistake when looking at competition is to misidentify your main competitor.

Some people are so busy obsessing over an industry leader with more longevity, experience and money that they fail to notice the little guy that suddenly overtakes them and vaults ahead.

They’re too busy playing the comparison game, where they pick people who are further down the road of success, and beat themselves up saying things like: “It’s easy for her. She’s younger than me”; or: “She’s so good at public speaking and I am rubbish. Of course, she’s got a degree fro Oxford…”

That is literally setting yourself up for failure because every thought loses you the battle… with yourself.

Others are so anxious about a peer that they subconsciously and emotionally identify with that and they fail to notice she’s veered off to serve a different branch of the market altogether, and, as such, is the best sort of competitor – someone who serves the same niche, but is leaving your area wide open for you to dominate.

This is the best sort of competitor to take notice of.

Learn to identify your strengths

Do top entrepreneurs have a special advantage? The answer is both ‘yes’ and ‘no’.

So perhaps Entrepreneur A is easily able to stay confident because she never had anything but respect, encouragement and money from wealthy, savvy parents.

But Entrepreneur B can relate better to all those working single mums from a tough background she is trying to help, because she is a working single mum herself.

Part of thinking like a true entrepreneur is cultivating the habit of turning negatives into positives.

You’ll find two things:

  1. Those who are ‘at the top’ have self-doubts and see flaws in themselves too. (Unless they have true narcissistic personality disorder!)
  2. Those who are at the top are always able to find the lesson or the gem in the rain.

Filling the gaps

We’ve all heard the famous advice to ‘fill in the gaps’ – but no one ever seems to go into detail about what this really means or how to do this.

You rack your brains, but sometimes you simply can’t see what gap you can fill that your biggest competitor hasn’t already cornered.

When that happens, don’t concentrate on your competition at all – look around you for outside inspiration.

This could mean something as simple and conventional as:

  • Visiting forums, FAQ sections etc. on your main competitor’s site and really analysing both questions and complaints from customers about your competitor’s product or system.
  • Searching other forums centered around your niche main interest and analysing questions, comments and complaints there.
  • Running a poll or survey.
  • Searching their social media pages and presences.
  • Getting out there among your customers in person.
  • Breaking it down…

Using a cut-and-dried system is sometimes the best way to step back and be objective about your competitors in a positive manner.

1. Study their literature

Do they put have a mailing list? Newsletters? Do they do flyers locally etc?

Read and make notes on:

  • Who they are targeting.
  • What they are stressing as their big benefits.
  • How often they update their products.
  • Features they are offering.
  • Other advantages they are offering: Pricing? Ease-of-use? Easy-to-get-to physical location? An online catalogue that you don’t have? An easy purchase and check-out process? Apps they are signed up with and promote? Unique apps they offer their customers?

Depending on your industry, you should be easily able to come up with a similar ‘checklist’ of points to analyse. Keep it as a template, and revisit it at least every six months.

2. Ask yourself why your competitor is your major competition

What similarities do you have – and how can you use the answer?

  • Are they developing new products? Updating old versions?
  • Do they provide free updates?
  • Have they made any big changes to their marketing approach recently? If so, what are people saying about it? What is your competitor saying about it?
  • Do they belong to professional trade associations? Do they get extra business through associations (and their magazines)? From local business clubs or organisations
  • Have they built up a loyal customer base as a long-time business?

3. List what your competitor is doing better than your company

Figure out how you can change that and overtake them!

4. List what they are not doing as well as you or your company

What are their weaknesses? Why do you think this is? What are their customers saying about it? Is there some other advantage or benefit that makes customers buy in spite of the weaknesses?

Creating a system you can use such as a checklist or a semi-annual review can help take the emotion and anxiety out of competition, as well as allow you to clearly see things you might otherwise miss.

Like I said to my husband last night, competition is healthy. It prompts us to keep striving to go that one small step better.

Just remember the best entrepreneurs never accept other people’s negative evaluations of them without analytical, honest assessment.

Have a great week!

This article first appeared on Internet Income Detective. Read more and comment here