Focus on Customers by Dropping Rivals


Who is your competition? Most companies view their competition as another brand, product, or service. But smart leaders understand it is not who but what. Your competition is any obstacle your customers encounter along their journeys to solving the problems your company exists to solve.

Your company needs to understand the marketplace: who your competition is, what other products are on the market, and how they are doing. But focusing on competitive products and companies can interfere with your team’s ability to immerse itself in the world of your consumer.

Once you’ve redefined your competition as your customers’ obstacles, it’s relatively easy to stop focusing on another product or company. Minimize meeting time devoted to rivals. Discourage product design approaches that focus on assessing or iterating on what is already out there.

Instead, reinvest your team’s time and effort. Here’s how.

First, rethink what you sell. Most companies think they sell a product. To transcend strictly one-time, transactional relationships with your customers, your company must think about selling a transformation: a journey from a problematic status quo to the new levels and possibilities that will unfurl after the behavior change you help make happen.

Next, rethink your customers. They are not just the people who have purchased your product or the people who follow you on Facebook. Your customers are all the people who grapple with the problem your business exists to solve.

Now, focus on their problems. Engage in customer research, online and in the real world, to understand and document their journeys.

One of the most important takeaways should be a deep understanding of the decision traps, pitfalls, friction spots, and quit points that people frequently encounter on their journeys. Look to user data, surveys, research, subject matter experts, and even third-party data to discover roadblocks. Use this information to do a continuous “competitive analysis”:

  • Understand the obstacles your customers face
  • Learn how and where people get stuck
  • Solve those problems
  • Understand how people overcome the obstacles and get unstuck
  • Understand what stops others from achieving this success
  • Solve those problems
  • And so on