Back when starting Pardot, we only knew of one existing competitor: Eloqua. After getting into the marketing automation market (then called demand generation followed by lead management), we quickly found competitors that were established but subscale in Austin and Minneapolis.
Then, as with any small but fast growing market, more competitors emerged. And more emerged. And more emerged. The number of new competitors was staggering.
I was worried.
Two years in this new upstart called Genius emerged. With slick marketing, a clever edge to their product, and tons of VC money we were nervous. A couple quarters went by and we kept losing deals to them — we were losing the fight.
Then, unexpectedly, something happened. Genius essentially went away. We were no longer losing competitive deals. Customers they had signed were defecting and coming to us. While they were great at raising money and customer acquisition, their product wasn’t meeting the needs of the customer. No matter how hard they tried, and how much money they threw at the technology, they weren’t able to deliver a compelling product.
One competitor down.
But, how were we going to compete with all the players in the market?
I was asking the wrong question.
The focus must be on the customer.
The focus must be on delivering an amazing experience.
The focus must be on delivering incredible value.
Staying close to the customer is what matters most, not competitors. Yes, being cognizant of competition is prudent, but competitors are outside your control. Delighting the customer is within your control.
With hindsight, I realized I worried too much about the competition. I obsessed over them. I feared them. Only after experiencing continual success in the market, and seeing many competitors flail, did I come to understand that this was a normal part of the entrepreneurial journey. Competitors will always come and go — I needed to redirect my worrying to serving the customer.
In the end, the customer decides who wins.
Serve the customer.