When working with a client on her company’s new B2B Website, she mentioned that she was looking at what her competitors were doing with their sites.
It was then that I quickly spilled out my standard mantra that B2B companies should never focus on what the competition is doing but only on what works for their specific market.
It then occurred to me to write a blog about this subject.
Knowing, however, that there are no new ideas, I did a little Googling — only to find that Kat Shoa, on her blog “The Directive,” had a guest recently write beautifully about this very subject.
Authored by Sheena Sharp, of Sharp Market Intelligence, her post “Competitors: Fuh’Get About ‘Em! How too much focus on your competition can throw your company off course,” presents all the right reasons why it’s a bad idea for a company to pay attention to its competition.
The focus of her insight was in relation to B2C companies and areas such as product development. My focus, of course, is B2B marketing, but her insight applies just the same.
Here are just a few of her main points on why a company should not pay attention to what its competition is doing.
- The competitor’s focus may not be the same as yours.
- You’re indirectly ascribing the competitor a certain business or market acumen they may not deserve.
- Competitors can make mistakes. Do you want to follow in their footsteps?
- Following competitors is a weakened position. Your employees and customers will not view your company in a leadership position. This may impact innovation, sales, press coverage, etc.
Items #2 and #3 are the ones that stand out for me. That is because I often see major B2B brands not following best B2B marketing practices. Just because these companies make a good product doesn’t mean they are the best at marketing. As the big guys, they just have bigger budgets.
Unlike mid-sized and smaller B2B companies they are not in the position to make every single marketing dollar spent produce measurable results. Direct marketers have always said that a B2B company’s focus (or any company’s focus) should be on its customers and prospects.
Marsha Lindquist, in her blog posted on My Article Archive, addresses this point directly in “For Better Business Results, Focus on Your Customer, Not Your Competition.” Here are her main points:
- Focus on your customers’ needs and wants.
- Assess your own resources and strengths.
- Differentiate with the customers’ best interests at heart.
- Make a wiring diagram of their needs and wants.
- Focus only on that wiring map and you can’t get off-track.
Focusing B2B marketing on the needs and wants of customers is the only way to go.
Over many years in direct marketing, I have heard companies talk about what the competition is doing, or wanting to react to something the competition is doing. It’s my advice — and that of others — that this focus is unproductive and costly. For B2B marketers, putting the competition in its place means ignoring them altogether.