CompanyHow to Stay Ahead of the Competition

0967e19a-3329-439f-8857-3f35c7f3f5d8_detailTo succeed in today’s rapidly changing world you have to focus more on competitors, and less on executing your old success formula. You have to be part of disrupting and changing markets in order to compete effectively. Here are my top ten tips to stay ahead of the competition:

Develop more future scenarios. Too many businesses spend their time thinking about what they did last week/month/year when they should instead be thinking about what they need to do tomorrow. Instead of spending hours analyzing prior results, put that energy into developing future market scenarios, looking for potential shifts, and identifying how you can upend competitors.

Obsess about competitors. Spend less time thinking about what you want to do and more time thinking about how competitors can, and will, hurt you. Your execution is probably better than you think, but if your strategies and tactics aren’t focused on dealing with competitor actions, then you can’t make more money. Most problems are created by competitors that require you to adjust what you do, not how well you do it.

Study fringe competitors. Ignoring upstart rivals is expensive—just ask bankrupt newspapers what the cost was of ignoring Google and Craigslist. Fringe competitors show you how to use new technologies, new solutions and new business models to change the marketplace, and how to reposition yourself for growth.

Attack your organizational lock-ins. Businesses get locked-in to and repeat their behavior. But repeating behavior, not matter how successful, allows competitors to predict your moves, and makes you an easy target. Attack those things that keep you stuck in your ways so you become a moving, less predictable target.

Seek disruptions. If you always do what you’ve always done, you won’t ever do anything new. Intentionally disrupt the way you do things so you will try new and different approaches. This will open your organization to new growth opportunities.

Don’t ask customers for insight. Customers mostly tell you that they want better, faster, and cheaper. They won’t tell you what competitors are doing to make breakthrough improvements. Nor will they tell you when they are evaluating new solutions that you don’t offer. Following customer advice further locks you into the old business and leaves you wide open to competitor attack.

Avoid cost cutting. Cutting costs weakens your ability to execute and eliminates resources to do new things. It makes you weaker. Smart competitors recognize the opportunity to pounce on customers and steal business during market weakness.

Run lots of tests. Planning and forecasting are dramatically overrated. Too often they lead to trying fewer ideas because of the pre-action overhead. Recognize that it is impossible to predict the impact in competitive markets. Instead, get in the marketplace and do it. Try things. Spend money on tests, and use test feedback to adjust and compete better. Let tests pull you into doing what the market values, and what competitors don’t offer.

Acquire lots of outside advice. People inside your business are too focused on execution to see most market changes. Better execution always looks like the answer to any problem. Outsiders can point out what the market is looking for and how you should adjust to be a stronger competitor.

Target your actions at competitors. Look for how your competitors are locked in, and attack them in ways they cannot respond. Don’t just do what you want to do, take actions intended to hurt your competitor. Never miss an opportunity to ruin your competitor’s day.

Adam Hartung is CEO of SparkPartners and is an entrepreneur and author. His book, Create Marketplace Disruption, explains how to compete profitably in today’s rapidly shifting marketplace. You can read more at Adam’s blog and follow him on Twitter at Adam_Hartung.

Lolo Siderman received her degree in Business Administration from the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of business in 2010, after graduating from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh with a degree in graphic design. She has successfully started and either managed or co-managed four companies in a variety of industries, such as design, real estate services, and sports training.

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