6 Ways To Snap Up Opportunities Your Competitors May Miss

Stay ahead of the competition with these six tips.
Co-founder, KISSmetrics
December 20, 2011

Succeeding in today’s ever-changing business world demands that you stay ahead of your competition. If you’re running a business, you probably already understand this.

But how do you pull it off? Here are six ways to take advantage of lucrative opportunities your competitors miss.

Obsess over your competitors

To take advantage of opportunities, watch everything that your competitor does. You probably spend most of your time reacting to competitors, adjusting to what they’ve done. That drains you of the energy to execute well and keeps you from being ready for new opportunities when they emerge.

Spend less time planning what you will do and more time analyzing your competitors. To help motivate you, think about how competitors can take market share from you and damage your business. Consider assigning a person or small team to this task.

Pay attention to upstart rivals

If you ignore competitors that you think won’t amount to much, it could hurt you badly. Craigslist and Google had a significant impact on newspapers. Most traditional papers didn’t think much of the upstarts at first, and those older media outlets are out of business now.

Pay attention to new competitors. You can learn new ways to use the technologies you’re used to. You might discover business models that could drastically change the marketplace.

Most of your competitors will probably ignore the new guys, which means you have a better chance of survival.

Become unpredictable

Don’t forget that your competitors are probably watching you. They study where they can take advantage of your habits. When you develop predictable habits, you become an easy target.

You have to be unpredictable. A great strategy is to conceal your moves.

Google doesn’t announce when it makes changes to its search algorithm. Journalists and bloggers uncover that information. Google also hides its algorithm, keeping SEO companies and competitors from gaming it.

Apple does a lot of pre-selling, but in a secretive way. This keeps competitors in the dark about weak organizational habits, while they drum up loads of free publicity.

It’s hard to control information in huge organizations, so leaks happen. But if your operation is smaller, keep a tight lip and stay unpredictable. Your moves will be easier to pull off.

Go after competitors' organizational habits

As you change your organizational habits to keep your competitors on their toes, try to find what your competitor is doing that is routine.

“We find [Oracle is] a great opportunity creator,” says Steve Mills, IBM's head of software and systems, emphasizing that all businesses want to make money.

“Oracle does this at the expense of their clients…making them a good company to compete against,” says Mills. “They use schoolyard bully tactics, they make a lot of claims they can't back up, and they tend to back away from benchmarks and any real-world evaluation of their technology.”

When you see a weakness in a competitor like Oracle, go after it. You’ll grab the profit that your competitor is missing.

Destroy what you do

This may sound suicidal, but if you want to innovate, you have to disrupt your own business, profit model and product. It’s how you’ll get a jump on your competitor.

Some companies have entire divisions devoted to disruption called skunk works. The lucrative opportunities that follow radical innovation demand that you constantly change the way you do things. Try to make creative destruction a part of your organizational culture.

Why is this important?

“Corporations are built on the assumption of continuity; their focus is on operations,” according to Idris Mootee. “Capital markets are built on the assumption of discontinuity; their focus is on creation and destruction.”

In other words, if you are to beat your competitors, you need to change.

He suggests companies do several things, including:

  • Open up decision-making processes.
  • Relax conventional notions of control.
  • Change at the pace and scale of the market.

If you refuse to make these kinds of changes, your performance can slide into mediocrity. You can miss the opportunities that allow you to grow year after year. You'll let your competitor dominate.

Don’t listen to the customer

If you ask for feedback from customers at the early stages of innovation you might shoot yourself in the foot because customers don't always know what they want. Do you think Apple customers knew they wanted an iPad before it was built? Probably not.

You have to first figure out what you are going to create and then get feedback from customers after it's created. Don't get feedback beforehand; it can slow down innovation.

Getting ahead of the competition demands revolutionary change. That occurs when you create something that breaks with the past and generates a whole new curve in how we live and do things.

In the printing business, new opportunities didn’t come about by creating new fonts for the daisy wheel printer. It came about when a company invented laser printing. The competition didn’t see the innovation and customers couldn’t tell them to do it.

Take advantage of those opportunities

When you dedicate energy to looking for opportunities that your competitors miss, you will be a market leader for a long time. It’s a proven strategy for the growth of a profitable business.

Can you suggest any other ways to jump on opportunities before your competitors?

Co-founder, KISSmetrics