Google’s Larry Page made a good point when he explained who his company’s biggest competitor was. Well, we should probably say it was a good answer he had prepared earlier, because you don’t simply come up with an improvised response like that on the spot. And what can you possibly say when someone asks you who your biggest competitor is? (One of Apple’s main competitors is Twix, by the way, but you’ll have to keep reading to find out why.)
I would recommend giving an unexpected and possibly evasive answer. Let other people discover who your competitors are. It’s not up to you to give them any clues. Who knows, otherwise you might name a company that people had taken their eyes off, and then they might contact them behind your back to hear what they have to say, or listen to their offer.
So make it as unexpected as you like, but also make sure you give an intelligent and credible answer. “We haven’t got any competitors!” definitely isn’t the right response, unless you work in a planned economy or are the very last company in a sector that hasn’t yet completely vanished. There are a few other possibilities:
Give it a try. A competitor for the Apple iPod? That’s Mars confectionery – such as Twix, Mars and Milky Way chocolate bars – or Haribo sweets. Teenagers spend a lot of their pocket money on confectionery, so if they have to save for an iPod themselves, it often goes wrong when they spend too much on sweets. If you don’t really think Mars is a credible competitor for Apple, consider this: the Mars group is half as big as Apple and doesn’t do too badly, with a turnover of 30 billion dollars.
You know the thing, when you reply by being evasive, instead of giving a real answer. For example: “Define competitor”, or explain that you are active in four different market sectors, and that you’re always competing with different companies. Or that you work internationally and have to compete against various companies in other countries. Or that you are the only company in your industry that invests more than 10% of your turnover in research and development, so you are happy to be lonely at the top. And so on.
Go higher up
If you’re extremely ambitious, you can exaggerate. NetApp had only just grown out of nappies when it started to name EMC as its biggest competitor. And they continued to do so until everyone believed them, and NetApp’s market share sometimes even surpassed EMC’s in some sectors. This is also the standard approach that Geoffrey Moore describes in his books. So, a final tip: don’t just read blogs; read a good book sometimes too.