Never Treat Your Competitors Like “The Elephant in the Room”

For individuals unfamiliar with the expression “The elephant in the room,” it is a metaphor used to describe an apparent problem or risk no one wants to address. With the competitive landscape changing hourly, choosing to ignore that “Elephant in the Room,” better known as “competition,” is extremely dangerous.

Due to current market volatility and disruptive digital business models, a company’s best customers from the past will be their greatest competitors in the future. Keeping a constant eye on competitors and emerging market trends, will help businesses to avoid being comfortably “boiled alive.” All businesses today must be acutely aware of their potential market disruptors while improving their qualitative listening skills in three specific areas:

1. Understanding a Competitor’s Social Presence and Messaging Strategy

While benchmarking competitive spend on digital media programs is a good business practice, it is far more valuable to focus on what a competitor is saying and where they are saying it, rather than focusing on how much they are spending.

As social listening greatly assists in identifying potential customer needs and emerging business trends, companies should be applying these same listening principles for identifying potential competitive threats and market disrupters.

2. Knowing a Competitor’s Positioning Strategy with Industry Analysts

Because industry analysts often validate, reinforce, and amplify a company’s point of view, there is much to learn from an industry analyst about competition.

Analysts develop industry research briefs, conduct competitive benchmarking, and attend industry and vendor conferences. They often provide meeting summaries based on a competitor’s point of view and offer observations gleaned from discussions with various companies in multiple industries. For these reasons, industry analysts are excellent resources for tracking competitors and competitive market positioning.

3. Identifying Future Potential Partner Conflicts

We now operate in a business environment where daily coopetition is rampant. Not surprisingly, a company and their fiercest competitors may be conducting business with many of the same partners. If an organization was to look at their top five competitors and partners, they would be astonished at the number of times a competitor was also doing businesses with one of their top partners.

While coopetition is a fact, this doesn’t mean companies should enter into partnership agreements void of understanding where potential business conflicts may occur. It also doesn’t mean businesses should be “partner phobic” when it comes to future business negotiations. What a company should fully appreciate is that partners are not a company’s employees and must protect their business’s self-interest with equal or greater passion, like most partners are protecting their self-interests.

Companies must develop the right type of internal processes to capture the required intelligence to partner smartly. Understanding how key competitors engage with common partners delivers useful insight for identifying potential market threats and formulating future response measures.

No one company can service every market need on its own, so partnerships must be an integral part of any company’s growth strategy. The key to making any potential partnership successful is to partner smartly while fully understanding and minimizing the risks where mutual business interests are not completely aligned.

Listening more closely to what your partners and competitors are doing in the market is a great place to start.



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