I'm not good at sitting idle. So if I am stuck waiting for some reason, I get antsy. To kill that time, I'll fire up my smart phone and play a game (or two) of Hearts. In the game, by default I am player south. (4 players sitting around a table, each designated by a direction.)
My arch nemesis is player north. He is the shrewdest of the computerized players and if anyone is going to beat me, it's him. (Stay with me, I promise there is a marketing message in here!)
I have played Hearts (usually with real people so don't feel too sorry for me!) for many years and I'm pretty good. I have a sound strategy that has been time tested so I rarely need to vary from it. But…the fact that north is good and is my most worthy opponent throws me off that track.
I find that I play differently when I am overly-conscious of trying to beat him in particular. And in fact, the more I purposely change the way I play to thwart him….the more I lose. If I stay disciplined enough to play my own game my own way — I rarely lose.
(Did you notice the marketing message I snuck in there?)
We all run the same risk in running our businesses and planning our marketing. Way too many businesses invest too much time and energy worrying about what their competitor is doing. Then, they change their own game plan to chase after the other guy — emulating or trying to outdo.
It's a game you are destined to lose. One of three things is going to happen.
- Your competitor is doing something in their sweet spot and you can't really compete so you look second rate.
- Everyone recognizes that you're reacting/copying your competitor and you look like a 'me too" brand.
- You spend so much of your time and money executing their tactics that you never have the resources to do what you know will advance your business.
The only way to win marketshare, customers' love and brand dominance is to do it your way. All the time. Regardless of what the competition is doing. Reacting to the other guy rarely plays out in your favor.
Look at the recent TV commercial war between Verizon and AT&T. (watch their commercials by clicking on their names) Who do you think is winning? AT&T looks like they're whining and making excuses. Why? Because Verizon sucked them into their game.
Should you know what your competition is up to? Yes. But only if you can then be disciplined enough to stay your own course. If you can't resist playing their game…you're actually better off staying in the dark.
Always play your game. That's the only way companies like Apple, Zappos and Southwest Airlines won. Same goes for you.
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