Twice in the past week I heard the phrase “we’re customer obsessed and competitor aware.” That way of framing customers and competitors really resonates with me. As an entrepreneur, one of the most important traits is to truly love and care for the customer. An absolute obsession. Of course, the obsession must start with the team through culture and values, and then translate into the treatment of customers.
Now, as an entrepreneur, especially in the earlier years, but continual throughout the lifecycle, is the competitive paranoia. See, it’s much easier to spend time reading competitor websites, listening to competitors on podcasts, reading competitor tweets, etc. All the content is out there, just waiting to be consumed. With almost no effort you can spend hours doing what feels like real work: studying the competition. Only, it’s much more effort to do the more important work: talk to customers. Customers don’t usually write long blog posts about what they do and don’t like about your product. Customers don’t usually spend an hour on a podcast talking about what they’d changed with your service offering. Hard work is required to obsess over customers, but hard work isn’t required to obsess over competitors.
Stop obsessing over competitors and instead be competitor aware.
Be competitor aware of their latest positioning, messaging, strategy, etc. but don’t obsess over it. Find the balance where the minimal amount of attention is allocated to stay aware of what’s going on with them but no more. As a simple exercise, whenever you find yourself obsessing over a competitor’s press release, immediately email three of your customers to find a time to check-in and see how things are going. The more you obsess over competitors, remind yourself to transfer that energy to obsessing over customers.
Customer obsessed and competitor aware is the best approach, but not easy. Pay attention to your actions and ensure the obsession is on the customer, not the competitor.