Self-improvement is all the rage these days. If you go into any bookstore or library, you’ll see shelves bowed under the weight of books about how to make yourself a better person. There are also plenty of newsletters, podcasts, websites, television shows, and magazines on the subject, too.
And because every company wants to be at the top of its field, there’s also a burgeoning market for advice on how companies can improve themselves. Suggestions abound: offer the best product or service you can, go the extra mile for your customers, keep costs under control, leverage social media in your marketing, etc.
Those are all great tips—and certainly things that every company should be doing. But they don’t cover all the important territory that an organization needs to consider. What’s missing? The competition.
Offering an excellent product or a great service isn’t enough to push your company to the top of its field. You also need to know what your competitors are doing so you can be sure that you are doing it better. If possible, find out the following about your competitors:
Their rates (including any guarantees they offer)
What internal talent they have
Who their largest clients are
Their strengths and weaknesses
What kind of screening process they use
Their retention and conversion statistics
Use this information to modify your own business practices and improve your offerings. Did one of your competitors drop the ball with a major client? Treat that as a cautionary tale for what not to do. (And who knows—maybe it will turn into an opportunity to woo that client to your own company.) Do any of them use interesting screening processes that would be good to incorporate into your practices? Are your competitors undercutting you in the price department? Knowing what they charge can help you be better prepared to address prospects’ questions about what value you offer for your price.
John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods, declared, “It's competition that forces companies to get out of their complacency.” Whether your company is struggling, stuck in a rut, or currently at the top of its game, there is always room for improvement. Sometimes your competitors can push you to kick things up a notch—and when that happens, be thankful for the inspiration.