Innovate – Don’t Imitate


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Does “chasing the competition” describe your approach to product, services, or customer experience design? Are you more focused on what your competitors are doing than on your own business and your own customer experience strategy?

If you answered “Yes” to either of these questions, you seriously need to rethink your approach. Read on. (And even if you said, “No,” please read on!) You’re doing your customers and your organization a serious disservice.

So let’s start with this: When it comes to your customer experience, are you innovating or imitating?

1. Do you dwell on what your competition is doing?

2. Is your approach to designing products, services, and the customer experience fresh and innovative?

3. Or did you take the Zappos tour and decide to replicate their model?

4. Are you looking for new and creative ways to meet customer needs or solve their problems?

Much like raising a child, i.e., what works for some kids (discipline, learning styles, medicine, etc.) doesn’t work for others, leading and growing your business is going to require a different approach than what your competitors are doing. Why? Well, for one, you are not the same companies. You don’t know all of the ins and outs of your competitors’ businesses and why they do what they do. They could be doing it all wrong but using great messaging and marketing to make you think they’ve got it right. Build your own company. Execute your own strategies. Your customers will appreciate it.

‘Focus on competition’ has always been a formula for mediocrity. – Daniel Burrus

Listen. Nobody wins when you imitate. When there are clear, differentiated choices of products, services, and/or experiences in the marketplace, the decision is made easier for your customers. When customers’ experiences with one company stinks, they have the ability to go purchase from someone else. Let them decide.

No man was ever great by imitation.” -Samuel Johnson

Imitation is the death of innovation. When imitating, there’s no need for innovation, right? Take your inspiration from other industries, if you have to. Get motivated by what your competitors are doing, but don’t dwell on them. Competition drives innovation, and vice versa. And innovation drives success, simply because it allows you and your competitors to offer a variety of products to meet your customers’ needs. When that happens, the customer wins. And then you do, too.

Even in the face of massive competition, don’t think about the competition. Literally don’t think about them. Every time you’re in a meeting and you’re tempted to talk about a competitor, replace that thought with one about user feedback or surveys. Just think about the customer. -Mike McCue

Why would you create a customer experience strategy that mimics your competitors’? Why do you care what they are doing? Shouldn’t you just conserve your energy and focus only on what you are doing or need to do to deliver the best experiences possible? The simple answer is: Yes, you should be aware of your competition and what they’re doing, but your business strategy shouldn’t be a “me too” or driven by “how can I take my competitors’ customers.” That’s not a win-win for anyone. And that’s certainly not a customer-focused culture.

Not all experiences are created equal. When you design your customer experience strategy, good guidelines to live by include:

  1. Define and communicate your brand promise
  2. Understand your customers: who are they? what do they buy? what problems are they trying to solve? why do or don’t they buy?
  3. Identify your customer segments: do different customers have different needs?
  4. Define your moments of truth: think about your customer experience lifecycle and your various touchpoints and interactions
  5. Map your customer journey
  6. Understand the marketplace: yes, be aware of competitors and what they’re doing, but don’t imitate
  7. Listen to your customers and prospects
  8. Define your customer experience: innovate, get creative, add value to the marketplace
  9. Hire the right employees for your brand experience

If you’re a regular follower of my blog, you know that I like to end my posts with a relevant quote. Today, I wanted to share several quotes that are relevant and inspirational to the topic at hand. It was tough to pick just one, so I opted to share them all!

If we can keep our competitors focused on us while we stay focused on the customer, ultimately we’ll turn out all right. -Jeff Bezos

It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation. – Herman Melville

Almost all absurdity of conduct arises from the imitation of those who we cannot resemble. -Samuel Johnson

To refrain from imitation is the best revenge. – Marcus Aurelius

This one made me laugh, but it is so true! Instead of playing to win, I was playing not to lose. It reminds me of a story I once heard about two friends being chased by a bear, when one turned to the other and said, “I just realized that I don’t need to outrun the bear; I only need to outrun you. – Sean Covey

Competition is healthy. Especially when all your competitors are unhealthy, and hopefully sick and absent during the competition.? – Jarod Kintz

Anytime you find someone more successful than you are, especially when you’re both engaged in the same business – you know they’re doing something that you aren’t. -Malcolm X
I’ll insist my competitor is the greatest, so that when I beat him, I won’t be calling myself the greatest—I’ll be proving it through my actions.? -Jarod Kintz

Competition brings out the best in products and the worst in people. -David Sarnoff, Founder, RCA

Competition is a rude yet effective motivation. -Toba Beta

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Annette Franz
Annette Franz is founder and Chief Experience Officer of CX Journey Inc. She is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, consultant, and speaker. She has 25+ years of experience in helping companies understand their employees and customers in order to identify what makes for a great experience and what drives retention, satisfaction, and engagement. She's sharing this knowledge and experience in her first book, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the "Customer" in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business).


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