Meet Your Competition.

Working with scores of companies in the digital ecosystem, I end up being the go-to guy on a persistent question: "How do we compare with the other guys?"

Individual sellers and whole sales organizations demonstrate a serious need to be benchmarked. There are great companies out there who offer this as a service: they'll tell a given company whether they are number one, two or twenty-three in the eyes of agencies or marketers. Or you can always fall back on whose is bigger (comparing revenues, page views, video streams....whatever.)

But nevertheless, they ask me the question, because I've spent close time with many of the companies they perceive to be competitors. And they really, really want to know how they stack up.

The answer is simple, if also a bit frustrating: If you're measuring yourself against any competitor, you're embracing ambivalence and courting failure. Give power and currency to someone else and you immediately make it all about a company and a sales team and issues that you have no control over.

The right approach is to localize the questions: Given our resources, skills, voice, capabilities, scale, etc., what is the best we can possibly be? How might we become indispensable to this customer at this critical time in their business?

Tell your team (or tell yourself) to stop comparing your insides to other companies' outsides. The more you obsess about your 'competitors' the more you stop paying attention to the customers whose money you hope to earn. Your competition is you....your benchmark is your potential value to the marketer. All the rest is noise.

When a member of her staff would ask Oprah Winfrey about the latest guest that Jerry Springer or Arsenio Hall or Sally Jesse Raphael had booked, she always offered the same admonition: "Let them do them. We'll do us."