What is the single biggest problem with looking at what your competitors are doing and trying to emulate them?
For example – if they have a flashy website and spend loads on pay-per-click advertising – do you have to do that as well to compete?
If they attend particular trade shows or go to awards, do you need to have a presence there as well.
Does a me-too strategy work?
The problem is that if you do what everyone else is doing, then what is it that sets you apart? Why should someone choose you over someone else?
This is something that many organisations struggle to get right. The boss looks over at the competition – perhaps she gets an email newsletter – and wants to know why her company isn’t sending out stuff like that.
It’s much easier to mock up a newsletter and start sending it out instead of questioning whether the newsletter adds value and if clients would actually read it.
Competing on such a basis is effectively an arms race, with everyone spending money to keep up with everyone else.
And, because the Internet effectively makes it free to send out stuff, ridiculous amounts of crap floods into our inboxes every day.
There’s a simple principle that we should keep in mind when advertising what we do.
If you are holding a red flag in a sea of blue flags, you’ll stand out from everyone around you.
That doesn’t happen if you’re holding a red flag and are surrounded by others also holding red flags.
If your business is doing what everyone else is doing then you have to come up with something new, something unique – that makes you look different from everyone else.
Many businesses are too scared to appear anything but corporate. They think that by projecting an image of themselves that is all polished wood and starched shirts they will come across as professional and competent.
Fear rules how they make decisions. They don’t want to send out controversial messages that polarise their audience. The words they use are dull and insipid.
It’s not about shocking an audience. Instead it’s about attracting their attention and then getting a message through to them.
And that’s very hard to do with everyone else shouting at the same time – especially on the internet.
Imagine how you would act if it cost you $10 to send each message. You’d be much more careful about who you sent it to, what you said and how you created a deal for them.
This doesn’t mean we should ignore the competition.
You should study them, read every message they put out and learn exactly how they advertise themselves.
Then – figure out what you can say and show that is different.