Would you ever drive your car without checking your rearview mirror at all? How many times have you seen a speed car racer coming from behind, driving faster and see the leader try to block them in a NASCAR race?
Running a business against competition is no different. You would never take the seat of a racecar and not have rearview mirrors – it would be too easy for your competitors to pass you by.
Competitive Intelligence is Your Rearview Mirror
In business, the only and true way to check your rearview mirror is to have competitive intelligence (CI). CI will give you the tools and metrics that will allow you to measure the competition. You will be able to see when someone is coming fast and also measure how you are catching up to the market leader (yes, CI can be both a rearview mirror as a radar for your business). Without comparable metrics for all the players out there, you are forced to rely on subjective analysis and opinions that can be completely misleading when it comes to sizing the performance of your competition. If you can see them coming, you will be better prepared to handle them and position yourself in a way that will prevent them to bypass you.
Rearview Mirror is Used More Often Than Once a Year
You would never just check you rearview mirror once a year – so why do you do this with CI? While we will work on analyzing competition for a yearly or quarterly meeting, we should never underestimate them —each of our competitors are doing things everyday to improve their business. They could be planning a new product release, expanding in a new market, hiring new people, approaching new market segments, etc. Competitors never stand still while you are busy working on your business. As much as you can be active, your competitors are doing pretty much the same. I am sure that the better racecar drivers check their mirrors all the time while staying focused on what’s ahead of them.
Look for Early Indicators
Waiting too long before recognizing a competitor in our rearview mirror can be quite damaging to your business. You should leverage CI to capture as many metrics available and to be alerted to anything that changes significantly. It could be change in traffic growth, social media activities, and sudden increase of job postings or new trademarks being filed. You need to put a system in place where it’s easy for you not only to capture as many of your competitor’s vital signs, but also to be able to frequently measure any changes. And you should be worried if many metrics are all moving at the same time – it’s hard to block someone with momentum, and the sooner you can see it coming, the better you can adjust your own business.
Only the Paranoid Survive
We have seen too many companies in the lead suddenly becoming laggards or even going bankrupt: Silicon Graphics, Palm, MySpace and Blackberry are a few names that come to mind. It’s fine to be proud of being the market leader, but you should never assume that no one is gunning for your throne. Leading companies should be the ones that worry the most about their market position and need to be even more vigilant when it comes to competition. This also applies to any of the cars in the race as there are new entrants coming in all the time – the bigger the opportunity, the more people are trying to get a share of it.