We publish whitepapers in which we delve into topics of marketing, creativity, and innovation. In our first edition, titled Please Watch Your Head, we explored how innovation and execution ceilings are affecting your team’s creativity. This time, we tackle the idea of differentiation and how you can get ahead of the game. It is easy to benchmark against your closest competitors, however, often you need to look beyond your close competition if you want to compete more effectively.
In highly competitive fields, it’s tempting to focus only on your competitors. An individual might set up a Google alert for his competitor’s name. A large company might hire a media monitoring company to track its competitor’s popularity, influence, and public segments.
When the stakes are high, we tend to look over our shoulders to the next competitor in line. We adjust our performance based on theirs; we try to develop a product with a few more features, or we try to populate our resumes with a little more relevant experience.
In business, this “one-up” driven mindset can lead to two problems:
1. It keeps you focusing on the past, rather than the vision for the future.
You need to look beyond your greatness. Think of ways you can innovate by bringing new products into the mix or tap new markets. In today’s highly competitive economy, you have to constantly innovate yourself to remain relevant. Look at Google, one of the biggest companies in the world. While their search platform has seemingly remained the same, they are always investing in new ideas through their numerous Google Labs to expand their product mix.
During your brainstorming sessions, you might find it easy to pull inspiration from what your competitors have already done. What someone has already produced and put out to the world is already in the hands of the customers and they are probably already attached to those products. You have to figure out what else can you put out so to make their life easier or more entertaining.
2. If you’re entirely focused on a few competitors, you won’t notice the player at the fringes.
Airbnb was founded only 10 years ago. A decade later it is one of the biggest players in the accommodation industry. Uber was created only 9 years ago, yet, now it is driving a lot of cab companies out of business. Both Airbnb and Uber are pure examples of how the fringes become disruptors.
Differentiating your brand is no small feat. Look at the insurance industry. Some would say it is the most boring industry. Yet, big insurance players always win big at commercial film festivals. They throw big dollars at creating delightful, shareable Super Bowl and primetime commercials to one-up each other. However, newcomers like Lemonade Insurance in the US are gaining traction and giving big players a ride for their money.
Look beyond your closest competitors. Benchmark yourself against different markets. Have an outsider’s perspective and ask them what areas you can improve on. Find for new sources of inspiration and new standards to shoot for.
Get four practical strategies for creating distance from your competition by downloading our whitepaper.