Understanding Your Competition to Succeed

Understanding Your Competition to Succeed

We often focus on our competition. We try to identify their strengths so we can improve. Someone once told me, “Figure out why people go to your competition and then improve in that area to get those prospects and customers.” Someone else said, “Don’t worry about the competition—just focus on your own business and you will succeed.”

This is all great advice. But by listening and reading, I have learned a few key approaches that have helped us at the Partnership Group – Sponsorship Specialists®!  Here are two insights:

  1. Yes, you do need to watch your competition. If you focus only on yourself and not on your competition and your sector, you will miss trends and opportunities. You don’t need to obsess, but the old saying “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer” is apt. In my case, I have great personal relationships with several of our direct competitors and communicate with them often. There are a few outsiders that I keep a beady eye on because the relationship is not close, nor do I want it to be. OK—a whole different TMC!
  2. Determine the weakness or weaknesses of your competitors and focus on them. (Most people focus on what the competition is doing successfully and try to do better in those areas. That is a long tough road!) Focus on their weakness and make yourself stronger against their weaknesses. That does not mean pointing out the weakness to prospects, but instead use it to your advantage. Here are a couple of examples.
  • Back in the 70s and 80s when international ice hockey was just starting up, Canada and Russia were the powerhouses. Russian teams were really disciplined, but they were not great shooters. They were amazing passers. They could pick up the puck in their own end and out-pass and manoeuvre the Canadian team all the way down the ice, and then pass it like a powerplay until there was a clear easy shot and secure the goal. The Canadians could never out-pass the Russians. They were just too good. But knowing their weakness was shooting, the strategy was to cover all the players so the Russians could not pass the puck and would have to shoot. Exceptional goaltending by the likes of Ken Dryden and others ensured that Canada could stop the less than skillful shots of the Russians and the Canadians prevailed. The focus was on the Russians’ weakness. They were not great shooters, so the Canadians forced them to shoot.
  • At the LeMans Road Race, Audi knew it could not build a faster engine than its competition. The others (Ferrari, Porsche, and even Ford) had faster cars. So rather than focus on trying to build a faster car, Audi looked elsewhere for success to achieve an unprecedented 13 titles at The 24 Hours of Lemans. They focused on cutting time in the pit. They worked on engineering faster time in the pit and ensuring fewer pit stops. Their cars did not have to be faster—they got to the finish line faster by decreasing pit time.

Simply put, know your competition’s weakness then build a better product or service that can shut down their strengths by exposing their weaknesses. An industry example might be, if you are a property that has fewer people in attendance, don’t try to beat their attendance numbers, but make sure your people are qualified for the prospect.

When I was in radio, and we did Saturday morning live “announcer on site” remote broadcasts, our station had fewer listeners and lower ratings than the #1 station (a country station—we were an oldies station), but we knew we had more qualified buyers with disposable income. As I sat with the owner of a high-end butcher shop, he told me the county station had better ratings and constantly drew more people to the live remotes than our station had done in the past. He spoke about them bringing their “hot dog truck” which gave out fee hot dogs and prizes. He said, “They get us more traffic.” And it was true. They drove more traffic to the remotes. But I knew these people were not buying his expensive steaks and pork chops. They were “groupies” who came for the free hot dogs. I said, “You’re right. They attract way more people than we do. But we bring you more qualified buyers. Which would you prefer—300 people on site and $10,000 in sales or 75 people on site and $20,000 in sales?” That woke him up. I reminded him that he had the past six weeks of remotes with the country station and the actual sales for each of those weeks. Why not bring us in for the next three (which were in late September—the country station had summer BBQ weeks) and compare the weekly sales. I said, “Don’t count the people on location—just count the till.” We won the long-term business by exploiting the competition’s weakness. We could never compete with the ratings or volume of groupies they attracted, so why bother? Find another angle.

Determine how you can win without going head-to-head with your competition. Call me lazy, but fighting the fight when they are better is a tough slog. Find the weakness or alternate angle and master that!

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  1. Great read, Brent!
    This brings me back to something you taught me (as well as in your sponsorship bible), that quality often doesn’t tell the whole story. Less audience, but higher percentage of qualified leads – not just the “cherry pickers!”

    I also find it interesting to see the never ending chess match between major brands capitalizing on each others’ weaknesses.

    • Josh, you are 10% correct. Quality over quantity is essential!! And focus on strategy not trying to “out do” the competition at their game. Stay well my friend and have a great long weekend.


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