Eyes forward

Paying attention to what your competitors are doing is certainly useful to help gauge where you're at compared to them but what's critical for me is remembering to keep your eyes on your own path ahead.

Recently at work, there was a discussion which I obviously won't post about in detail but during a call, there was a comment which can be summarised as:

"Our main competitor has XYZ feature. We should too."

I can see why this approach is attractive. We want people who use their product to move over to ours and it seems natural to fill what can be seen as gaps in our own offering. For clarification, these are small, peripheral features such as calculators of various types, not major "our users need this to achieve their goals" type features.

The issues I have with blindly following the competition are:

a) No real visibility - We don't know for certain whether a feature on our competitor's product is getting any traction or is really any use. We have no real insights on how much use any given feature has or if it even adds value for their users.

b) If you're copying, then you're behind - If you're making your own version of something a competitor has already launched, by definition you're behind them. You're never going to get out in front if you're waiting to see what they do first.

Rather than paying attention to our competitors, we pay attention to our users. We have a team who speak directly to users on a daily basis, helping them through their work. We gather insights and feedback directly from the coalface and we're small and agile enough to be able to react and improve our product, as close to real-time as we can.

If you're looking at what they're doing and they're looking at what you're doing, then no-one is looking ahead and you could miss vital road signs which will help you improve your product.

Keep your eyes forward.