Don't Focus On Your Competition. Aim Higher.

Don't Focus On Your Competition. Aim Higher.

How much time should you really devote to keeping tabs on your competitors?

How much time should you really devote to keeping tabs on your competitors?

John Smith
John Smith
Published: 17th October 2016


It’s crucial for any education business to have an awareness of who your competitors are, what they’re doing, and how they compare to you. However, once you’re aware of them, how much time should you really devote to keeping tabs on them?

Not as much as you might think would be my advice, for three key reasons:

Focus on customers, not competitors

I’ve seen first-hand just how destructive it can be when a business spends too much time fixating on what their competitors are doing. One past client (who sold classroom consumables) was so adamant that they wanted to keep their pricing hidden from rival companies that they removed all mention of prices from their website and product catalogues. Instead, if a teacher wanted to see the prices relating to each product, they had to fill out an online form and become a site member!

Now, I can understand the basic desire to keep certain things hidden from competitors, but not when it has such a detrimental effect on the customer experience. Needless to say, although their emails to teachers generated a great click-through rate, they made almost no sales because it was just too much effort for teachers to obtain the information they needed to justify the purchase.

Ensure that every decision you make regarding your marketing to schools is informed by the desire to meet customers’ needs instead of the desire to put obstacles in the way of your competitors.

Be relaxed about competition, it’s a good thing!

From personal experience, I can appreciate the frustration when your business launches a new initiative or product on your website only to find out a few weeks later that a pale imitation of it has appeared on a rival’s website. But does that mean you should have tried to keep it under wraps so nobody found out about it (including perhaps your customers)?

Only last week I spoke to a client on the phone who was interested in our Campus software. They had watched all of the demo videos on our website, but told me they couldn’t believe we were daring enough to show those videos on our website for all of our competitors to see. In the end it turned out that the videos had impressed this client enough to convince him to sign up to Campus there and then so our decision to be transparent had clearly paid off!

No, it’s just something that you should accept and use as motivation to keep innovating and staying ahead of the pack. Learn to view it as a compliment and justification for your endeavours, and don’t underestimate teachers’ ability to spot who are the innovators and who are the imitators.

Learn to be grateful to your competitors for pushing you to be the best that you can be. After all, would you really want a world where your business had no competition? Who, if not your competitors, would provide you with that constant drive to improve? The truth is that without competition we’d soon become too comfortable for our own good so try to think of your competitors as a crucial ingredient in achieving your dreams (rather than a soul-sapping nuisance!).

Aim higher when choosing your role models

When you’ve learned to stop looking over your shoulder at the competition, set your sights on those world-class companies outside of your sector that are much more worthy of your attention. Focus on trying to identify what makes them the best at what they do and work out what you need to do in order to emulate them in your industry.

This is something I’ve learned from my time at Sprint Education. At first I was surprised how little time we seemed to spend on what our competitors were doing, however over the last 3 years I’ve seen just how much more productive it’s been for us to focus on companies outside of our sector or abroad. We’d never have made the giant leaps forward that we have done in the past 3 years if we were constantly looking at what our competitors are doing. This is the best way to keep your business fresh, cutting edge, and ahead of the pack.

To keep your nose in front, look beyond your bubble and find some role models that are going to set the bar a lot higher for what your business can achieve. Then you’ll really start selling more to schools!

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