Competitive Advantages

Don't Study the Competition. Study Winners in Other Industries.

Studying the competition leads to failure.
Don't Study the Competition. Study Winners in Other Industries.
Image credit: Gary Burchell | Getty Images
VIP Contributor
CEO and Founder of Fit Body Boot Camp
6 min read
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You shouldn't pay any attention to your competition. I don't. I work with entrepreneurs who are generating seven, eight and even nine figures with their businesses and none of them focus on the competition either. They are aware of the competition, but they aren't worried about trying to beat them. In fact, a lot of them will help out their smaller competitors because they are so confident in their own growth.

Related: How Small Startups Can Profit From Competitors' Woes

If that sounds crazy to you, then you definitely need to keep reading this. If you embrace the mindset shift I'm talking about here, it will allow you to quickly multiply the growth of your business. Plus, it will get rid of the unnecessary stress and anxiety that might be holding you back right now.

When top-earning entrepreneurs need more creative inspiration, or we need to accelerate the growth of our businesses, here's what we do instead: We study winners and losers in other industries. I'll explain why in a moment, but I need to fully debunk this myth that it's smart to study the competition.

Studying the competition leads to failure.

Have you ever seen a news story about a car crashing into a telephone pole out in the middle of nowhere? There are dozens of stories like this every year: Someone is driving out in the open desert, where he has practically infinite room to maneuver, and still they crash into a three-foot-wide telephone pole!

It's ridiculous, right? Here's why it keeps happening: Whenever those drivers hit a telephone pole, they do it because they are focusing on the pole, not the road. They might even be thinking, I better not hit this pole, but either way, they end up hitting the pole because they focus on it.

Related: How to Convince Customers to Buy From You and Not the Competition

The lesson here is that your subconscious mind will guide your body toward any outcome you focus on -- even if it's a negative outcome you want to avoid. In business, this means that focusing on your competition is the same thing as handing over your market share to them. You're literally training your body to send energy over to the competition instead of putting that energy into your own business.

It doesn't matter if your self-talk is saying, Why does that competitor get more customers than me? or I'm going to put that competitor out of business! In both cases, you're robbing your own business of the focus and energy it deserves.

That's why high-performing CEOs and entrepreneurs keep their thoughts completely focused on success, whether that means studying successful businesses in other industries or envisioning the success of their own businesses.

Studying winners in other industries makes you innovative.

The key to becoming an industry leader is to innovate faster than anyone else in your space. The key to faster innovation is to study innovative leaders in other industries so you can borrow their strategies and be the first to implement them in your own industry.

Subway is a perfect example of this. When it decided to position itself as the "healthy" fast food sandwich option, it obsessively studied the fitness industry. It borrowed its entire marketing strategy from successful gyms and personal trainers, including before-and-after photos with "real looking" people like Jared.

Related: People Thought Google and Adobe Would Crush My Startup. Actually, They Gave Us Our Biggest Breaks.

As a former personal trainer, I have my own opinions about how healthy Subway's food really is, but that's not the point here. The point is that Subway was the first fast food place to position itself as "healthy" and because of that it became the fastest growing, most recognized sandwich company on the planet, all because it copied the winners in a different industry.

Today, of course, Subway is struggling. I've studied this and talked about my findings before. That's because it's just as important to study failures in other industries as it is to study successes.

Studying losers in other industries keeps you sharp

Studying businesses that fail in other industries is not the same thing as focusing on your own failure and accidentally making it come true. When you look at a failure in another industry, the situation is different enough that you can pull out the lesson without getting caught up in the dread of What if that happens to my business?

Like I said, I've talked about Subway before, so here I'll talk about Quiznos instead. The fascinating thing about Quiznos is that it always had better quality ingredients than Subway, but it never had nearly the same success. What went wrong?

Related: Use Being Different to Your Competitive Advantage

The answer is in the marketing. Subway had a brilliant, innovative marketing strategy that set it apart from every other sandwich shop. It even had an irresistible hook to draw in new customers: the famous $5 footlong. Quiznos, on the other hand, had no real marketing strategy at all. Instead, it had those weird "spongmonkey" commercials.

Now, are those commercials hilarious? Yes, of course they are, but if you've never eaten at a Quiznos, they barely give you any reason to try it out. Even if you have been to a Quiznos before, they barely entice you to come back. Quiznos' marketing team made the classic, fatal mistake of capturing people's attention without showing them any meaningful benefits. For instance, they could have focused on the fact that they used real ingredients and made a better-tasting sandwich. That would've given Quiznos a unique selling point.

The big lesson here is that you, as an entrepreneur, have a sacred duty to market your product or service based on the benefits it provides to your market. That is the only thing that will ever compel someone to buy from you instead of your competition. It's one of the core principles behind all business empires, and you should take any failure in business as a reminder to get back to core principles like this.

Related Video: 10 Ways Competition Helps You Win in Business

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