Don’t obsess about your competitors

By: Mark Stiving

Date: 28 June 2011

How much do you know about your competitors?

If you’re busy running your own business, probably not much. Do you know what? That’s how much your competitors know about you as well. Not very much.

The lesson to take away is that in most small businesses and in most industries, your competitors are oblivious to your marketing moves. They don’t see your small price changes. They are not going to react to them.

So the lesson is — don’t obsess about your competitors.

You are not in a life or death fight with your competitors. This is not a game where one of you has to lose and the other has to win.

The only scorecard is how much profit does your company make? How much money do you put in your pocket? And at the end of the day, month, quarter or year, nobody compares your score with your competitors. The only people who really care about your score (income) are you and the tax man.

How should you think about your competition? They are a data point. They are an important data point, but they are just a data point. The only thing that is important about your competition is what your customers and potential customers think about them. That’s it. (OK maybe this is an over simplification, but so what? If you’re a small business person, it’s true in your situation.)

So, talk to your customers. Have conversations with them and in the process work in the following questions: What other products (or services) did you consider? How did you decide on this one? What other sales channels did you consider? How did you decide on this one? This is what we want to know about our competition, what our customers think about them.

PS – price wars do exist, but they are pretty rare. Most companies are too into their own world to even know what you are doing, let alone react to it. Unless you do something “in their face” you will probably not prompt a price war.

Mark Stiving, Ph.D. is a pricing strategist, runs Pragmatic Pricing and is author of Impact Pricing (due out Autumn 2011).

Find out more about business threats like competitors in our dedicated section on SWOT analysis.

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