Know Your Competition!

Photograph of an alligator in a swamp.

These guys can’t wait to see you.

One of the uses for Aboard that quickly cropped up was “competitive review.” We didn’t think of this, of course. Users did. But the idea is simple: It’s hard to keep track of your competition. Most of them have websites. So you save their websites in Aboard, and now you have a big, share-able space where you can see all your competition at once.

I could immediately understand why people were doing this, because when Rich and I ran a software agency people would ask us who our competitors were. It’s a question the more aggressive clients love to ask, to see if you say something stupid like, “We don’t really have any competition.” They want to know that you know what business you are in. I’d have a few names at the ready and reasons why we were better. Over time, I started to keep a list. Often I’d want to recommend a prospect to a smaller firm. (Clients love to hear you’re too expensive for them. It motivates them.)

Over time, I got to know a lot of our competitors personally. People like to meet up. “Oh my God,” they’d say. “You’re very lucky you didn’t land that one.” To remind us that we lost the business and they won it. We’d fight to be the one to pay for drinks.

You might expect me to say something about how competition isn’t what matters and there’s enough room for everyone. But absolutely not. It still felt really good to beat them on subsequent proposals. I loved agency work because not only did you feel like you were always dangling over the edge of a deep, alligator-filled pit, but when something went well, you knew other people were cursing your name, watching you swing across to safety. There, you would find yet another alligator pit. That’s how we have fun.

Anyway! You can use Aboard to make cards for each “competitor,” and people can keep an eye on those competitors and add comments/screenshots when they do something worth noting. You’ll wind up building a log of what your industry is doing. In a way, the shared AI board is like this—we’re not an “AI company” specifically, but we are trying to see the whole industry. There’s another example below, around fintech apps.

(I have a board for actual Aboard competitors, too. I’m not sharing it because it has…comments.)

Why do this? Well…bosses love a good competitive review. Trust me. If you’re feeling caught in your career right now, make a board of what other companies in your space are doing, update it over a few weeks, and show your boss. She’ll go, “Wait, what is this?” Then she’ll show her boss. She’ll like you more and invite you to more meetings. Be careful what you wish for.

But there is no easier way to build cred than to show that you have a vague idea of what industry you are in. I mean it. Absolute corporate catnip. It’s also actually good for your job and brings in ideas. That too.