If you have ever driven a car, you are well acquainted with those areas not reflected in your rear view and side view mirrors. We call these “blind spots”. When you are driving, they can swallow up a two ton tractor trailer to the side of you. There are blind spots up ahead, too. That area you can’t see just over the hill or around the bend. And unless you have a sunroof, moon roof or convertible of some sort, there is that totally ignored blind spot overhead.
We have blind spots in business, too. They hide two ton competitors that sneak up behind us. They conceal the business consequences of an ignorant or poorly researched decision. They obscure reality.
When we are driving, we take pains to mitigate blind spot risk. We turn our heads so that we can visually see the blind spots to our sides and rear. We slow down and get ready to brake for the unexpected around the bend or over the hill. At least I do…
Why, then, don’t we take the appropriate actions to mitigate our business, blind spot risk? Especially when it comes to the competition, I just don’t understand this. Yes, competitive intelligence is usually the responsibility of the marketing department. But the responsibility should never solely be marketing’s. Every person in the company should be attuned to who the competitors are and how they operate. Big or small, no one can afford to ignore the competition.
I have seen three behaviors that are detrimental to a company’s safe journey in the competitive marketplace.
1. Denial. It’s surprisingly alive and well. “We don’t have competition.” “No one does what we do.” Want to make a bet? Every company has competition, whether it is another company’s product or an alternative behavior that stands in the way of adoption. If you don’t think you have competition, you just haven’t looked hard enough.
2. Extreme focus. A passionate hatred for a single competitor. (Usually that competitor has more market share than you do.) Every eye in the company is on this competitor. You celebrate their mistakes. You downplay their successes. You promise yourselves that “we’re not anything like them.” You are so busy hating everything that they are that you learn absolutely nothing from their success.
3. Biased Assessment. “We do ____ so much better than they do.” Your competitive analysis looks like your benefits list. There is no downside to your product. There is no upside to theirs. Sorry, no one can be that much of a loser. You can always learn something valuable from your competitor.
With each of these behaviors, companies create their own alternate reality. This alternate reality isn’t healthy. We shouldn’t be ignoring or downplaying the strong points of our competitors. Like us, they are trying to pave paths to success in the marketplace. They are part of the marketplace laboratory. They are experimenting with ideas, business models, and implementations that we may not have the expertise, resources, or bandwidth to try. We should be closely watching and learning from their experiments. The lessons they have learned are free to us. We should be borrowing their successes and implementing them in our own unique style.
So, what’s in your blind spot? And what are you going to do about it?