Nmachi Jidenma writes about the undue focus we put on the competition. This is written with individuals in mind but I think it matters to emerging software categories as well. My favorite lines:
“It only makes sense that competing with others distracts from the distinctiveness that makes our art special. By comparing ourselves with others, we lose the magic that developing our core art affords the world. Competition with others in a sense makes us ordinary. It encourages imitation and, if we are not careful, makes us lose our essence. How boring.”
“Perhaps the best illustration of the magic that competing with oneself can bring to our art is Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs’ maniacal obsession with his art was apparent to all in the careful attention to detail observed in most Apple products. This was clearly born out of his internal vision, which would not have seen the light of day if he did not stay committed to tapping into his inner creativity. We owe it to the world to bring our originality and insights to the work that we do.”
When it comes to emerging or low maturity categories,obsessing focusing too much on competitors can amount to at best, much ado about nothing and at worst, be down right dangerous. Not to mention really expensive when we can afford but a few marketing arrows. The reality is that in early stages of market maturity a good chunk of your competitors product and market strategy is experimental anyway. And the kicker is that even they don’t know which 50% will really work. And too often all it does is just distract product teams by putting a read view mirror in front of them and sucking every ounce of ingenuity out of their thinking about what can be. The wildly successful Tesla S, for instance, has redefined what a car should be and can be with a software-first ethos, yet with an appreciation for the basics. Can you imagine if Tesla had merely copied all the elements of the traditional car, save for the battery?
Software marketing has changed forever with the advent of cloud base delivery. The speed at which you need to move lets you define or re-define categories like never before. The very definition of what massive categories such as core HR, in-memory computing platforms, Collaboration, even CRM, is up for grabs, right now.
Sure, you need to have an understanding of where the competition is going, inform your play books and set your land mines. But too much focus on the competition just means you end up being reactive to a wobbly market definition instead of thinking about how to lift and shift the goal post.
About the only thing that is in fact constant is the ingenuity of
your products your products innate understanding of the customers need and how well you communicate this.