How to Deal with the Competition: Going Beyond Their Cool


How do you deal with the competition–and your colleagues’ seeming fascination for everything your competitors do? For a corporate marketer, this is an especially difficult (and annoying) question to answer. Constantly looking over your shoulder to see if the other guy is gaining isn’t the answer, although sometimes it seems that it might be. And there are days when it appears that everyone in your company is checking out competitors’ activities on a regular basis (how to they find the time? you wonder) to let you know about all the cool stuff they see.

For instance, you launched a new website founded on an intelligent keyword strategy. Then Joe from finance walks into your office and says, “Hey, have you seen Competitor X’s new website? It’s really cool.” Joe has no idea whether Competitor X’s website is getting any traffic or whether all those pictures of employees on their bikes or rock climbing appeals to the customer base—but it’s cool.

And let’s not forget trade show exhibits. As the person responsible for your company’s exhibit program, you plan your exhibit to be part of a defined, multifaceted customer experience from pre-show to post-show. You have measurement initiatives in place to determine how well you are engaging with customers and prospects. But then Sally from sales comes back from the food court to tell you Nicky Minaj is signing autographs in Competitor Q’s exhibit—and isn’t that cool? You sigh and wonder if you should take the time to ask Sally how she thinks Nicky Minaj fits into Competitor Q’s message and brand promise, and then you notice that one of your scanners isn’t working.

A wise person once said, “Everyone in the company has two jobs: what they are supposed to be doing and marketing.” You are a strategic thinker. You break down internal siloes to plan multichannel integration, you work to make everything come in on budget, you learn about innovations in your field, and study best practices. And yet at every turn, you encounter knee-jerk reactions to the “cool” that your competitors are doing.

Without resorting to doing bodily harm, how do you handle all this free insight?

  • You measure everything you do so that you can show results from your marketing activities.
  • You share the results not only with your team and your managers but across the company.
  • You talk about how you are getting these great results while staying within your budget. [Hint: share these with finance. They love data. They will become your defenders.]
  • You create an internal marketing plan that gets people excited about what you are doing—as opposed to what competitors are doing. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that not all customers are external.
  • You query (nicely and patiently) whether the traffic builders at trade shows are (1) attracting the right crowd and (2) being used to qualify prospects—or if the hordes in the booth are only interested in the free cookies or in having Nicky sign their arms. [Another hint: spending money on a traffic builder, whether an in-booth celebrity or stress balls, is money wasted if your staff doesn’t work the crowds in the booth—or if the booth is filled with non-targets or tire-kickers.]
  • You help break down siloes so that on a company-wide basis, everyone feels invested. And yes, that sometimes means listening to how “cool” the competitors are—and sometimes learning something from the comments. Yeah, I know.

In our next post, we’ll talk about ways to analyze your market position and then to create a competitive strategy based on that positioning. Meanwhile, be cool.