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Competitor research is a business fundamental. Whether you’re a start-up or an established business, a thorough understanding of your competitors is essential in devising business strategy, brand strategy, product positioning, optimising sales channels and the implementation of successful marketing campaigns. But can the focus on competitors be taken too far?
Furthermore, in this digital age, where many businesses face disruption, knowing who your competitors and keeping up to date with what they’re up to is often a time consuming and complex task. Competitors also come in all shapes and sizes. Some of them are directly comparable with your business, while others may have chosen to focus on discreet elements of the value chain.
There are tools and techniques to help keep tabs on your competitors more efficient, but the gains are often marginal. From a brand strategy and marketing perspective, the danger for some firms is a tendency to get too fixated on what someone else is up to. This fixation can lead to copy-cat behaviour. Resorting in replication of what the competition is doing, but with tweaks to pricing, offers and discounts. It’s a defensive tactic which can, if taken too far, stifle creativity, innovation and diminish brand identity.
Philip Kotler, the marketing author, consultant, and professor said ‘Marketing is the art of brand building. If you are not a brand, you are a commodity, then the low-cost producer is the only winner’
I’m not suggesting for a moment that we should stop competitor research, as mentioned previously, it’s an absolute business fundamental. The challenge I’m advocating is to consider your competitors in wider scheme of things, especially when it comes to developing your company’s brand strategy. Focus on where your business is strong. Spend time thinking about the uniqueness of your business and the added value you deliver to customers. Develop a healthy and respectful regard to your competitors, but resist emulating them. Build brand, be unique in your market place. Avoid delusions of inferiority.