A while ago a company was pitching an idea to me. It was a good idea and well thought through but the company was new and I didn’t really know the people involved. So I asked them – “why do you think your business will be successful in the future?” They immediately responded by telling me that “all our competitors are hopeless, out-dated and have a much worse offer and business model compared to us.”

It’s a curious response and I’ve heard various versions of the same theme many times before. It’s the story of two businesses. Firstly it’s the new entrants with no runs on the board who claim to be the next big thing. Secondly it’s the entrenched market players who have been listening to their own internal hype of invincibility for too long and believe that nothing will change. Either way there’s nothing good about it. At best it’s naïve and indulgent. At worst it’s just not believable.

The “they’re hopeless and we’re not” approach is not what customers want to hear. Why would they? All they care about is one thing – “what’s in it for me?” And they’ll make their own assessment of whether it is good enough to buy or whether better options exist elsewhere. They’ll also mentally question what’s wrong with a business if they have to resort to trashing their competition.

Companies that resort to criticizing their competitors are managing with an eye firmly on the rear view mirror paranoid that someone will take something that they believe is rightfully theirs. The problem is there is no entitlement in business and there’s no pecking order. The market is fluid and the best guys eventually win. They do that by understanding the needs of the market better than anyone else not by worrying about their competitors every move or trashing them whenever they can. They stay focused on the road ahead, keeping clear of dangerous obstacles and moving ahead when suitable opportunities present themselves.  

If your competitors are actually worse than you don’t shout it out from the hilltops. Instead thank your lucky stars and go about exploiting your advantages quietly and systematically. Do that by highlighting your own points of difference and explaining why they translate into valuable and hard to find customer benefits. Then talk about all the great testimonials and endorsements your existing customers have given you. If you are able to say “don’t ask us, ask them” (i.e. our customers) and you get glowing reports then you know you’ve hit on the magic formula…

Featured image by Oscar Ramos Orozco