How can I beat my competitors?

Four ways to gain an edge in your market

Are you ready to kick some butt?

I hope so, because today, I want to help you beat your competitors.

No matter what industry you’re in, you’ve got competition.

But in my experience, too many leaders get so focused on their internal challenges that they forget to pick their heads up and track their competition.

And it will cost you. You’ll lose market share, revenue, brand position, and talent. In the worst case scenario, you could lose your business.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. In fact, I believe competition is a gift to us as leaders – when we know how to handle it.

It’s vital if we want our organizations to truly thrive. In the words of Walt Disney, “I have been up against tough competition all my life. I wouldn't know how to get along without it.”

If you want to be a leader who can handle the competition – and beat ‘em – then keep reading. I’ve got four strategies to help you level up in your industry.

1. Embrace (a little) paranoia.

How do you view your competition?

Like most everything in leadership, beating your competition starts with your own mindset.

And, according to Geoff Yang, it’s where a lot of leaders lose before they even begin.

Geoff is a legendary venture capitalist who’s backed companies like Stripe, Netflix, Sonos, and DraftKings. He’s met so many entrepreneurs, all of whom are trying to mark their territory in a crowded marketplace.

“The worst entrepreneurs have no respect for the competition,” he said when he joined me on How Leaders Lead.

If you want to beat your competition, you’ve got to take them seriously. 

You can’t ignore them. You can’t underestimate them. You can’t look down on them and think they’re stupid or lazy.

That’s how you get beaten.

You’ve got to always look over your shoulder and ask what they could be doing that could affect your business.

On the other hand, don’t be TOO paranoid about your competition. That’s when you lose sight of your identity or get paralyzed by fear.

Embrace what Geoff calls a “healthy paranoia,” because being dismissive about your competition is a surefire way to get beaten by them.

2. See them as a source of ideas.

Yes, your competitors are a threat. But they’re also a gift.

In fact, your competitors are one of your best sources of ideas.

Be a student of your competition. Study what’s working and what’s not working.

Then, let those observations inspire you. How can you transfer their good ideas to your business?

In every market tour, my team and I always went into other restaurants to see what they were doing. We even went into retail stores, just to see how their ideas might also apply in the restaurant space.

One key tip: make sure YOUR version of the idea delivers more value than the other guy.

Use pricing, customer experience, or something else to make your execution of the idea even better for customers.

3. Block their moves with “war games.”

How can you get inside the heads of your competitors? What are they thinking? What might they do next?

If you’re not sure, try this fun idea from Carol Tomé, the CEO of UPS. She recently joined me on my podcast, How Leaders Lead, and told me about their “war games” exercise at UPS.

She asks her team to take on the mindset of their competitors and create an “attack plan” against UPS. What they come up with is – to use her words –  “thoughtful and scary.”

Then, they put their “UPS” hats back on and think through ways to fight that attack.

The process helps them discover new strategies and grow in ways they otherwise wouldn’t.

Find a way to see your business the way your competitors do. 

When you can anticipate their moves, you’ll then be able to block those moves so they don’t gain an advantage on you.

4. Let them bring out your best.

As you can see, you’ve got to respect, learn from, and get inside the minds of your competitors.

But you’ve also got to let them bring out the best in you.

That’s one of the takeaways I got when I spoke with Wendy Clark, who used to be a top marketing executive for Coca-Cola and now leads the global ad firm Dentsu.

She truly understands the power of competition in business. After all, when you’re a marketer for Coke, you’re always thinking about your chief rival, Pepsi

But she always reminded her teams NOT to allow the competition to keep them from being true to their own identity.

“The minute we stopped following our own strategy and tried to be Pepsi, we'd only ever be a second-best Pepsi,” she said. “We could be a better Coke, though.”

Great athletes will tell you: competition brings out the best in us. Think about Tiger and Phil. Messi and Ronaldo. Serena and Venus.

Allow that competitive spirit to propel you towards the very best version of your company.

I love how Wendy phrases it: “You can be a worse them or a better you.”

You don’t really beat the competition. You just use them as fuel to improve – and that’s ultimately what helps you win.

Sure, your competition makes your job more challenging. And without the right perspective on your competitors, you can get overwhelmed by fear, reactive strategy, and even arrogance.

But great leaders leverage their competition. They use it to keep themselves and their teams motivated, inspired, and prepared.

I hope the advice here helps you level up against your competition and – let’s be frank – kick their butts!

January 24, 2023