Why Keeping Up With the Joneses Kills Your Marketing Efforts

The other day, I was talking to a client and she was lamenting how there is a lot of “keeping up with the Joneses” in her industry. In other words, her company often looks to the marketing efforts of their competition and makes sure they are doing the same things.

I hear this from businesses all the time. Companies are so afraid of getting left behind that they spend much of their time and energy focusing on keeping up with their competitors’ marketing efforts.

That’s why when one company launches a Twitter or Facebook account, their competitors feel compelled to do the same.

This is a mistake.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the comparison game, but it is one companies should avoid. After all, why do we want our marketing efforts be MORE like our competitors? Shouldn’t we want to be LESS like them?

Why Copying Your Competitor’s Marketing Efforts Hurts You

Although it’s important to understand what your competition is doing, mimicking their marketing efforts does nothing but hurt you.

Worrying about keeping up with your competitors actually puts your business farther behind because you’re executing tactics that worked for them months or even years ago.
 And besides, wouldn’t you rather be on the leading edge of your industry instead of being a company that follows everyone else?

On top of that, copying what another business is doing isn’t a guarantee that those same marketing tactics will work for you. And, you have NO idea whether those tactics even worked for that other company. For instance, it might appear that their Facebook page is successful because it has a ton of “likes”, but it might not be driving any new business. Be careful about determining whether something will work for you based on external indicators.

How to Market Yourself Instead

As you look to determine which marketing tactics to deploy for your company, don’t make decisions purely based on what your competitors are doing. Instead, you should focus on running your own race and implementing the marketing efforts that make the most sense for your company.

To help you do that, here are some questions you should be asking yourself:

  • What are my goals? Ultimately, your goal is likely to drive more sales for your business. But, you need to get more specific on how you’re going to do that. Do you need to raise awareness? Generate leads? Increase sales conversions? All of the above? Getting crystal clear on your goals and how you’re going to accomplish them is paramount.
  • Who am I trying to reach? In other words, who is your ideal customer?
     Avoid the temptation to say, “everyone is my ideal customer,” because they’re not. Get really specific and look at your best clients. What do they have in common? What are the characteristics that you look for when talking to prospects? Understanding your target market is critical to effective marketing.
  • Where does my target audience hang out? Whether you’re considering social media or another marketing channel, it’s important to know where your target audience spends time. Do they hang out in forums? Do they attend networking events? Or, can you find them on social media channels like Facebook and Twitter? After all, it doesn’t make sense to jump into social networks if your target audience isn’t there. Conducting customer research will help you uncover this information and will help drive your decision making.
  • What kind of message will resonate with them? Once you understand where your audience is spending time, you should also take the time to listen to your customers and target audience to better understand their needs and pain points. This will help you craft brand messaging that will resonate with your audience.
  • What is a creative way to communicate with them? This is where you can get creative and really stand out. Once you’ve identified everything else, you can then build a marketing campaign.
     For instance, you could create an influencer campaign where you build relationships with a few key leaders in your industry. Or, you come up with a referral strategy to encourage your existing customer base to tell others about your brand. Or yes, maybe you do get involved with social media and create a contest to grow awareness for your brand.

The bottom line is that you need to make these decisions based on what makes sense for your brand. Yes, you might end up executing marketing tactics that you’re competitors are also using. But, instead of making a knee-jerk decision, this process will help you do what’s right for your brand.

What about you?

Have you fallen into the trap of keeping up with the Joneses in your marketing efforts? Do you battle this mentality in your organization? If so, how do you combat it? What are you struggling with? Let me know in the comments and we’ll talk it through.

Image credit: Carly Franklin

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Laura Click

Laura Click

Laura Click is brand strategist, speaker, podcaster and the founder of Blue Kite. Learn more about Laura and her work at Blue Kite.

8 replies on “Why Keeping Up With the Joneses Kills Your Marketing Efforts”

I’ll toast to this post! Cheers!!

I see this [annoying] phenomenon a lot in online marketing, in particular — even to the extent of naming a product or a launch or a consulting package or a telesummit something pretty darn close to a competitor’s offering. Sheesh.

I say drop the fear factor and the worrying over what your competitors are up to and pour your marketing energies and creative thinking into a stand-out marketing campaign with your signature on it!

It’s crazy that people want to so closely imitate their competitors. And you’re right – this seems to happen a lot in the digital marketing space. People would be far better off to think about how to innovate and differentiate instead of always looking to their competitors as a guide.

Thanks for weighing in, Melanie!

Ms. Click.

Well done. Your suggestion about competitiveness reminded me of the strategy and competitiveness research conducted by Michael Porter of
the Harvard Business School. Porter explained that trying to keep up with your competition, or even striving to surpass their operations, marketing, etc. cannot be considered strategic. For more on this concept go to: http://cfe.unc.edu/pdfs/what_is_strategy.pdf

Additionally, you did a great job at explaining that establishing goals, identifying target markets, and researching the target market’s consumer behavior are paramount. Specifically, in terms of consumer behavior, I liked your quote, “Do they hang out in forums? Do they attend networking events? Or, can you find them on social media channels like Facebook and Twitter?” I agree that determining where and how your target market interacts with social media is a critical step in formulating an overall marketing plan. If I may, I would like to suggest that Forrester’s North American
Social Technographics Online Profiles may be helpful in generating insights
related to this step. Have you ever used this tool?

Your post was terrific. Thank you for sharing.

@AnnaSeacat, SociallyMindedMarketing.com

Hi Anna,

Thanks for your kind words. You’re right – determine where your market spends time is a critical step that’s often overlooked. I’ve not used the tool from Forrester that you mentioned, so I’ll definitely have to give that a look.

Thanks for weighing in! Glad to see you back! 🙂


Just today I found this quote, which is timely and apropos: “No one can make me work harder than I do, so I’m generally not interested in who I am competing with.” –Victoria Principal

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