Who is your competition?

Apple Watch is not a threat to us –Fitbit CEO 

Pencil and paper is our competition – Intuit

I always say that our real competition is Netflix – Soulcycle CEO

standoutfromthecrowd1What do you think of how these businesses define their competition? If you rank these statements in terms of

  1. Relevance
  2. How actionable they are

How would you rank them?

After writing down your answer ask yourself the question – Do we get to decide who our competition is or do we simply recognize what customers reveal as our competition?

Before answering the competition question we need to start with our target customers. Starting with customers first tells us what problems are customers trying to solve or stated another way like Clayton Christensen did, “what job are customers trying to get done and hence hire a product for that job”.

If the customer job to be done is not that clear to find your competition or there are other confounding factors just ask the simple question – If customers hires a product, will they still hire yours? If the answer is no, then that is your competition.

A moment’s reflection on the customer focus and that we are solving a customer problem will convince you that we do not get to pick the competition but the customer does. With that in mind then look back at your ranking of the three statements.

The first and to this day the best in customer centricity remains Intuit’s definition. If you look their manifesto on the competition, you will notice how they describe what customers are doing now rather than what other products like theirs are doing in the market.

The other two, should not get any ranking because they are neither relevant nor actionable.

In the case of Fitbit,  they refuse to see beyond fitness and tracking as customer job to be done. They treat as if customers have a separate budget for wearable devices that just track activity and another pot of money for Apple Watch. That leads them to incorrectly state their competition. We can only hope this is stated for external consumption and internally they do understand all their real competitions.

In the case of Soulcycle, they defined it too broadly and hence ended up with Netflix. The reasoning likely is based on their thinking that customers hire Soulcycle as entertainment and anything that competes for customer time and attention is their competition. But it is easy to see that context, time and job-to-done are completely different for Netflix. More importantly the rule of exclusive hire does not apply here. If you look closely at from what budget are customers pay for Soulcycle, you will not find Netflix but fashion, food and pop culture. Saying Netflix as competition makes the strategy irrelevant and unactionable.

How did your ranking compare to this?

How do you define your competition?