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Your Competitor is not your Enemy

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I was at a client’s sales conference a while back, the company had been struggling in the marketplace for some time, and I kept listening with dismay as VP after VP trumpeted their, “Dell Wins!” Sure, I get it. They had beaten out an entrenched competitor in a competitive marketplace. Great. But the fixation on the competitor, even if just rhetorical, betrays a complete lack of awareness that “Dell wins!” are meaningless. What matters are “Customer Converts!”

Look, I get it. When you’re trying to make your quarterly numbers, or worse, when you’re losing market share to your competition, it’s easy to fixate on your competitor as the enemy. And why wouldn’t it be? When customers are buying other people’s products instead of yours, it’s easy to label your competitors as THE obstacle standing between you and success – in this case, more customer wins. And, let’s not forget, if it weren’t for hostile rivalries, we would never have seen Apple’s brilliant I’m a Mac, I’m a PC campaign.

And yet, the truth is, viewing your competition as your enemy takes a reductive view of the market that can ultimately undermine your success. This is why.

Sure it feels good to blame your ‘enemy’ for your failure in the marketplace. You need customers. Your competition has customers. They must be the problem. Right? Wrong. By fixating on your competitors as the problem, you unintentionally remove responsibility for success from yourself. Stated differently, if your product isn’t succeeding, no matter how ruthless and aggressive your competitor may be, it is still your fault. You bear the responsibility for compelling customers to want to purchase your products.

Compelling is the operative word, here. You see, the marketplace is not reductive.

Forget the myth that customers chose your competitor over you. They chose your competitor instead of you.

That’s the hard truth that no one wants to hear – when customers opt for someone else’s product, they’ve chosen not to purchase yours. Why? Because, for any number of reasons, your product and its marketing failed the customer – and your competition had nothing to do with that failure. Which is why, instead of fighting a war against your competitors (‘market share’) you should start waging a campaign for loyalty (‘customers’).

Which, as we all know, is the bottom-line for every business. It should only ever be about the customers, the people who actually have to spend their money and buy something. So the next time you have a win against a competitor, acknowledge how good it feels, but remember that it doesn’t bring you any closer to victory because beating your competitor isn’t the goal. Winning customers is. And the better you stay focused on that, the better your odds of success really are!

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