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Marketing: Do you really know who your biggest competitor is?

There’s a scene in Top Gun: Maverick where Mav holds a fighter jet manual in front of his students and says, “This contains all you need to know” before throwing it in the trash bin.

Why? Because it’s the same knowledge their enemy has. But what the enemy doesn’t know is the limits of the fighter jet team.

And believe it or not, the same goes for your competitors.

As Bill Taylor points out in his article, the ultimate test is not how you fare against what your competitors are already doing… it’s whether you can live up to what your customers believe you can and should be doing.

In other words, your biggest competitor is your customers’ last best experience.

See, customers won’t only compare you to similar businesses, but also to their experience of other service providers.

And if they love the smooth experience of booking an Airbnb, why wouldn’t they expect the same level of service from their financial services?

Bill offers two real-world examples of this:

  • When Toyota launched Lexus, they weren’t just introducing a new car, but a new luxurious experience. They stole inspiration from the Genius Bars in Apple retail stores, naming them Answer Bars, and placed them in their dealerships.
  • Savannah Bananas—a highly entertaining and revolutionary baseball team—didn’t look up to other sports institutions. Instead they reimagined what’s possible in a baseball game, drawing inspiration from Disney and Broadway.

You can trace the same strategy in any hugely successful business or organization in the world.

Point is, customers no longer accept an “okay” job. You either deliver an exceptional job or nothing at all… and organizations that fail to deliver will suffer for it.

So what can you do? First, compare your product or service not with competitors, but with trends in the industry.

For example, don’t draw inspiration and innovation from other ad agencies. Instead, look to other service providers in the digital B2B space.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should ignore competitors. Just don’t be afraid to throw the competitor manual in the trash and start to innovate. That’s how you’ll attract and retain customers—and help your brand thrive.