What does it mean to gain, and keep competitive advantage in a fast-growing market? Having spent the better part of my career in high growth start-up companies, I have viewed competition as mostly positive — a strong signal to prospects and customers that a new market is legitimate and thriving.
But that doesn’t mean I haven’t had to fight hard against aggressive competitors. While I welcome good healthy competition in business, sadly, it’s all too common for young, desperate or just plain inexperienced companies to resort to tactics spanning ethically questionable behavior to out and out dishonesty to try to win business. So how do you respond when faced with such tactics from a competitor? Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way:
1. Stay honest: It should go without saying but it’s never a good idea to resort to playing fast and loose with the facts. Aside from the ethical implications, it’s all too easy for prospects to fact check you. Is it fair game to draw distinctions between competing products? Absolutely. But making false claims about a competitor’s product is the surest way to lose all credibility and unfortunately is all too common when companies are struggling to compete.
2. Brand matters. A lot: In technology, there’s a tendency to think that the only things that matter are features. And to be sure, having superior technology in the areas that matter most is critical to success in a market. But that’s not the whole story. People want to do business with companies that are trustworthy, that are impressive, that deliver on what they say, that are innovative thinkers, and that are both genuine and responsible in all their interactions. Brand isn’t just about how a company looks, it’s about who they are. To quote Seth Godin, be remarkable.
3. Let others do the talking: While it’s important to listen to what companies say about themselves, third parties can speak volumes in helping sort through the noise. Analyst reports, reviews and customer case studies are great resources to help prospects separate fact from fiction.
4. Be helpful: No solution is right for everyone. Helping to educate prospects on how they can best assess their needs and how you stack up is a win for all involved. We routinely create content to help inform potential customers on how they can best determine the solution that’s right for them.
So, when it comes to competition, remember to stay focused on your own company – on delivering value, doing great work regardless of your role, and building great products. This is the best way I know to not only gain competitive advantage, but to keep your pride and self respect in the process. And nothing is worth sacrificing that, no matter how fierce the competition.