There’s a lot of discussion around the notion that our attention spans are shortening. Forbes recently blamed it on social media and the nonstop 24/7 media barrage.
While I think our uber plugged in lives certainly contributes, there’s more to the story. Yes, we are being bombarded with more information than ever before but we also distract ourselves when we don’t keep things in perspective.
For example, one of the greatest dangers to our focus is actually all the attention we afford our competition. Should we keep an eye on them? Sure. But we shouldn’t let them pull us off course.
Have you ever had the experience of driving along, paying attention to something off in the horizon and next thing you know, you’ve driven to that spot? And it wasn’t where you meant to go?
The same phenomenon can happen in your business. Most business owners I meet pay a lot of attention to what their competition is doing. In the good old days, you might watch for a competitor’s ad in the newspaper. But today, you can track tweets, Facebook page updates, their Pinterest boards, blog comments and a whole host of other streams of information. You could literally be monitoring your competition like it was a full-time job. While we definitely need to keep an eye on the competitive landscape, there’s a very fine line.
The danger in keeping track of the other guys is that you lose track of your own path. We tend to move towards what we pay attention to. (Re-read that last sentence…it really is that important.) You don’t want to let your competitors determine your marketing strategy and that’s exactly what’s going to happen if you spend too much time and energy keeping an eye on their activities. When you feel it happening your brain needs to broadcast – Danger! Distraction ahead!
Or else, you’re at risk of:
Deplete your resources: You have only so many hours and so many dollars. If you let your competition re-direct your attention and your marketing messages – pretty soon, you’ll run out of opportunities to tell your own story.
Look like you’re playing the “us too” game: No one is impressed with a copycat. Even the coolest idea or product benefit falls flat when someone else has already claimed them as their point of difference. No one’s going to see you as an industry leader if you’re always a follower.
We know that it takes a fair amount of repetition to seed your message. The last thing in the world you want to do is invest time, money and your audience’s attention just to divert it with a completely different message that is in reaction to your competition. It’s like getting to the final mile marker of a marathon and then swerving off course, only to have to go back to the starting blocks when you want to resume your own race.
You want to be the leader in your industry, not follow someone else. The best way to beat your competition isn’t watching what they do. It’s doing what you should be doing.
If you have and follow a marketing plan — you can enjoy the best of both worlds. The marketing plan keeps you on your course and heading in the direction you have determined. When you know where you’re headed and keep checking the map to see that you’re on course, you can afford to peek at what the competitors are doing.
You should keep an eye on your competitor…but you shouldn’t let them change your game plan. It’s much easier to stay on track if you have a well-defined track to begin with.
Odds are, if you set and follow your own course, your competitors will be the ones following you.