You aren’t trying.
Technology companies, by definition, came into the market with something new. If they are successful, it’s often because they took the market by surprise with a breakthrough technology or approach. At the time, there was no real competition.
Not just little companies.
If you’ve impinged on someone’s market, they might buy you right out. But they might not. They might add your features to their existing product. They might come out with a competing product. Other companies in your field appear.
All of the followings are symptoms of the fact that you aren’t even trying to keep up with your competition.
You never developed competency in keeping an eye on the competition
When there was no competition, you didn’t need to keep up with it. You may be throwing more money into sales and marketing, or into making your product better. You might not have noticed that the market has moved on. Markets tend to go in one of two directions. Most often, they go in the direction of more complete solutions. So if you have enterprise software that does anti-virus, ultimately it will be part of a suite of security products. Another direction is hyper-specification. Think of those apps that are the “simplest”, like Clear. This is a lot rarer, but it does happen.
If your product is still the best in a very specific category, you may not have looked at the complete solution. Your solution is still the best at that specific function, but in your market, there are generalized products that do most of what you do (now), but not all. You keep telling yourself that when someone really wants the best, they’ll have to come to you, and for now that is true. However, ultimately, the market tends to compromise for most of the functionality if it is a more complete product.
You did develop an ego
We’ve all seen companies that have gotten feedback that their competition exists. They read the Gartner reports. Customers choose other technologies. Some of them even commission expensive reports. However, they have either grown accustomed to being the best, or they have management who won’t listen to the bad news. I used to work in CI (Competitive Intelligence) and the major problem for CI officers in companies is that the management doesn’t want to hear the bad news.
Your marketing budget is inferior to your competition’s
Last year, The Lean Marketer published a study showing that Israeli companies spend less than half of their American counterparts. The hard truth is that you won’t win without marketing yourself. You may think that those companies are simply lucky in getting more word-of-mouth and publicity. Nothing could be further from the truth. The buzz is coming from more sales, more customers, and more spending on buzz.
You don’t care that your customer needs something more or different
The essence of great marketing is providing what your customer needs. Sometimes that’s a better or more complete product. Sometime’s it’s better customer service. Sometimes it’s value-added marketing (content that really helps them).
The competitor who is doing the best is the competitor with the best ongoing prediction of what the customer needs. That is, if you are developing today what the customer needs tomorrow, you win. If you have marketing that reaches the customer the way they want to be reached, when they need the product, you can potentially win. If you have the absolute right product at the right time, you can potentially win. Nothing is guaranteed, but paying attention to the customer is a channel for paying attention to the competition.
We all see marketing messages from companies we know simply are not providing the service or product we need. We see them sending all the right messages, but ultimately, we know that it doesn’t matter because they aren’t doing the right things. In the end, people purchase what they want and need, not the message about what they want and need.
Moving forward. Start to try.
It’s time to start to pay attention to your competition. Today’s competition may be completely different than what it was when you started out. What steps can you take today to be where your customers are next month?