September 23, 2016
Three Reasons The Best Leaders Keep Tabs On Their Competition

The idea of keeping tabs on the competition might seem as tedious as organizing a file cabinet or stuffing envelopes. That’s why so many CEOS find it so easy to blow off such a task in favor of tending to more pressing matters.

Old-school executives operate with the “I don’t focus on my competition; I focus on my business” mentality. It’s an excellent mindset to work from, but there’s a difference between focusing on the competition and knowing the look of your competitive landscape.

That starts with understanding the numbers. All businesses today, regardless of industry, are becoming data-reliant. In fact, a recent survey by Gartner predicts 70 percent of the most profitable companies will use some sort of predictive analytics or collaboration in 2016. Achieving market differentiation requires thorough knowledge of a competitive graph, which not only includes your industry opponents, but also your prospects, customers, and partners.

As CEO, you’re inundated by large amounts of data from sales, marketing, engineering, finance, and every other department under your organizational umbrella. This information gives you the necessary scouting report to understand and play every position on the field in a pinch.

Leaders must do more than gorge on metrics and data to size up the competition; if that’s all that was necessary, robots would run companies. For CEOs, there’s always an instinctual element that helps them sift through the ongoing noise of a marketplace. The most successful ones use this innate ability to home in on their competition’s voice and build a crystal ball clear enough to accurately predict future outcomes.

Insight Gathered From Observing the Opposition

No one has time to ingest every piece of content a competitor publishes. But you gain tremendous value by tracking your competitors through blog headlines and video titles, among other indicators. You can gain a feel for the plans and values of your competitor that would be impossible to accumulate without that data.

As the best CEOs have learned, there are several benefits to keeping tabs on your competition, three of which include:

1. Gaining a competitive edge.

Business is a highly spirited sport. The greater your understanding of your competitive graph, the more active you can be. Wayne Gretzky’s “ice vision” enabled him to predict the puck’s direction before it even left the stick, making him an offensive threat whenever he was on skates. Competitive data provides the same service, giving you a full scope of what’s happening in your industry, including the ins and outs of your competition.

According to a Forbes Insights survey, 86 percent of executives with knowledge in predictive analytics report it provided a positive ROI. Keeping tabs on your opponents helps you see the direction they’re headed so you can get a jump on the next big movement.

2. Staying one step ahead of the industry.

By having a competitive perspective, you’re not just looking at raw data. You’re analyzing context and distilling business value from what you observe.

Stack your company up against its competition to gain a more valuable perspective of its current standing. This profound view and the perspective you gain will allow you to outsmart your competition on multiple levels.

3. Protecting your blind side.

As the head of your company, it’s your job to keep your head on a swivel. Often, there are whispers and noise ahead of the freight train that’s coming right at you. Watch the competition and understand the competitive landscape as a whole to avoid an unexpected hindrance.

Monitoring the competitive landscape requires discipline. Fortunately, technology makes it easier than it’s ever been. With the importance of thoroughly understanding your competitive arena and the ease with which it can be accomplished today, there’s no reason to not keep tabs on your competition.

Jim Fowler

Jim Fowler is founder and CEO of Owler — the free competitive intelligence platform business professionals use to outsmart their competition, gain competitive insights, and uncover the latest industry news and alerts. Prior to Owler, Jim founded Jigsaw in 2003 and was CEO until it was acquired by Salesforce in 2010 for $175 million.