As marketers we all know the importance of knowing our competition. Promoting our strengths and diminishing weaknesses in messaging is a core facet of great marketing content. But as companies grow into new markets and expand product lines, they attract new buyers and solve new use cases and in doing so, enter a new or changing market. With that, the competitor landscape shifts.
Understanding your competitive environment isn’t news. But what is surprising to me is how few companies reassess their environment and take proactive measures as they continue to grow and change. Companies offer new products or services which naturally land them in a new group of competitors but they’re still working off a list years old. It is those companies who find themselves surprised and on the losing end of deals because they were unprepared.
A great example of this hit me square in the face this week. My husband and I were shopping for a new car. It is a really straightforward deal – no trade in, a lease, same terms across the board for every manufacturer we visited. I love cars so I had a short list of vehicles I was considering and I’m incredibly decisive. The entire buying process for me is summed in hours, not weeks. It’s also important to note we’ve driven the same brand family for close to twenty years. It seemed like it was really going to be a slam dunk. I shop at the company we normally buy from, drive a couple other makes to stay informed of the options, reconfirm my earlier decision, and whiz bam- we’re done.
But, it’s 2016. Digital marketers took advantage of my google searches with paid ads and cookies and introduced me to their products based on my research. Without leaving home we easily found beautiful vehicles to consider from manufacturers who had entered this market in the last one-two years and all in the same price range. It was clear that the market I was shopping in had defined such a demand that it was no longer dominated by a couple kings but instead several great companies offering a great selection with solid ratings and reviews. The comparison was not only about price but feature, function and wow factor. The other companies had really done their research and it was apparent in the marketing.
When we went to our usual brand, it was disappointing. From the product to the price, their car wasn’t where the competition was and more importantly, it wasn’t where I was at as the buyer. It was clear our old standby had been taken off-guard. Call it poor research, poor planning, poor execution. They took their position as leaders in this market for granted and failed to keep aware of the changes. Their car was not competitive in function or price, let alone the buying experience. The new players had moved the playing field. It was as if they just depended on our loyalty to drive the decision; that we wouldn’t take time to research our options and in the end they stopped being competitive. In some ways it was so disappointing but also served as a great reminder.
The competitive landscape is constantly changing. You have to proactively manage it and market appropriately; make changes as necessary or you will be left behind. Proactively manage it by researching where your new product is taking you, who are those buyers, what else do they buy, where do they get their information from, who else is talking with them. Once you have this information, market to buyers where they are, get involved in their buying experience early and ensure employees on the ground can deliver the brand in person during the closing experience.
In the end, we ended up selecting a manufacturer we’ve never bought from and enjoyed a great buying experience. I brought home a new car and another reminder that the only constant is change.