The late, great George Carlin had a million memorable bits, one of which was “words you never hear together,” such as “Hand me that piano.” Here is the CMO’s version:
“Things that keep me up at night include the quality of our competitive analysis.”
“Next year we plan to significantly increase our spending on competitive research.”
You won’t hear these kind of statements in marketing. Keeping tabs on the competition is simply one of those things you are expected to do. 99 times out of 100, though, competitive assessments are backward looking. Like the old metaphor of driving while looking in the rearview mirror.
At the moment, I am working with a client executive who goes nearly batshit when told what any of the three main competitors happen to have done. An all-hands-on-deck effort ensues, with lots of ideas generated to answer the question, ”What do we do in response?”
By the time “we” figure out what to do or say, the competitors will be on to something else. And the above scenario repeats itself, nearly every month. As a result, this client has become inefficient, ineffective, and unable to keep adequate resources focused on the future.
Instead of tracking what promotion or new product introduction the competition did LAST MONTH, here are some “early indicators” you should consider monitoring:
- Senior management hires or reorgs
- Financial condition – revenues and profits
- Trends in media allocation
- The Q&A portion of the quarterly earnings call
- Presentations or webcasts available on the investor relations web pages
- New partnerships with other companies
- Interviews with executives in the trade press
Note that none of the above are consumer or customer communications. By the time the latter take place, it is really too late.
It wasn’t George Carlin, but Wayne Gretsky who came up with this memorable line:
If you’re not thinking, and looking, ahead…you might not get a chance to shoot the puck at all.