They may be some of the most fearsome predators around, but even sharks have predators of their own: humans, killer whales, sperm whales, and other, larger sharks, just to name a few. The lesson for business owners? No matter how strong or standout your business is, there’s always someone out there ready to take a bite out of it. In honor of Discovery’s Shark Week, we’ve channeled our inner Jaws to give our thoughts on how to hunt down your competition – and ensure you keep your place at the top of the food chain.
Lurk and Learn
Successful predators have a deep understanding of their prey’s habits, attributes, and behavior. But their knowledge doesn’t stop there. They keep a watchful eye on other their competitor predators, as well as those higher up in the food chain so that they can respond as needed. In the same vein, top-performing brands spend time analyzing who their competitors are, how they position themselves in the market, how they land their customers, and what they’re doing differently. Allbirds made it to the top of the Silicon Valley tech-hipster footwear market by understanding what its sneaker competitors were doing and then doing the opposite. Low on branding, big on data, and made from all-natural materials, they’re the world’s anti-sneaker, which is precisely why they’re so successful.
Don’t Get Ambushed
Nature is full of surprising predator-prey combinations. (Did you know that dolphins have been known to kill small sharks?) The same is true in business. It’s easy to identify direct competitors because they’re the ones selling the same products or services that you do. Indirect competitors, on the other hand, are the ones much more likely to take you unawares. Diapers.com never expected Amazon to undercut its entire business model, and Netflix probably didn’t anticipate the launch of Disney Plus. When undertaking a competitive analysis, look beyond your usual hunting grounds to make sure danger isn’t lurking. Don’t stop at indirect competitors, either. Try to envisage changes in your industry that might create competitors who don’t even exist yet. Think of it as anticipatory evolution.
Adapt and Specialize
Sharks are apex predators because they’re ruthlessly specialized. They’re not the biggest, the fastest, or the longest-lived creatures in the ocean, but they’re perfectly honed killing machines. Your brand can learn a lot from this highly specialized adaptation. Capitalize on what sets you apart from your competitors, and use it to target a narrow subset of your potential audience. For example, the rising sea of direct-to-consumer brands has shaken legacy brands’ hold on the market with highly specific consumer targeting across key digital channels. Nimble, tech-forward, and integrated, they’re built to adapt. Theirs is a business model that instills fear in the larger, slower-moving predators that used to rule those seas.
Make Yourself A Force to Be Feared
Sharks don’t exist in a vacuum. They’re part of a complex ecosystem in which sometimes they’re the predator and sometimes the prey. Even when they’re in their element and hunting their preferred prey, a competitor shark is never far away. Sharks know it, and they’re ready for it. Your brand should be, too. The best way to stand out from your competitors is by learning from them and differentiating yourself so that you can focus on your prey – and fend off potential competition. Do this with shark-like precision, and you’ll become a force to be feared.