I'm not going to lie: I like to win. What can I say? I'm an Aries, and the son of two incredibly hard-working immigrants. It's in my blood.
Plus, it's pretty much inescapable in my line of work. Although competition can get ugly, a healthy dose of it is extremely beneficial for your business. If you're an entrepreneur, chances are you like a challenge, which is what competition offers.
However, there are right ways and wrong ways to compete.
I'm not just talking about cheating here, although to be clear, cheating is one of the wrong ways to compete. There are other mistakes we make when addressing and facing our competition, and these hurt us in the long run.
Here are five tips for being a smart competitor:
1. Smell their fear.
This might sound harsh, but knowing your opponents' fear is the best way to be a smart competitor. If they fear something, it means it's a vulnerable spot for them, and therefore an opportunity for you.
To do this, you have to get a good read on them. The best way to do that is to show your face at networking and industry events. It can be exhausting, but I always make sure to attend big events in the advertising and tech spaces so I can mingle directly with my competition.
You know what they say: Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.
2. Pitch yourself.
If you've ever seen Shark Tank, you already know this one. We live in the golden age of ideas, which means you have to think beyond just pitching your business. Chances are, there's already something similar out there.
Pitch yourself. Smart businesspeople make all of their relationships personal, no matter how many movies tell you otherwise. When I met Pete Cashmore, CEO of Mashable, we bonded over the fact that we were both starting companies, not the minute details of those companies. That's an experience that we will always have in common, so our relationship will outlast any career moves we make.
Your business is one central idea, but you're multifaceted. You can form relationships with a bunch of different people, based on a bunch of different things about you, versus the other folks who are just pushing their company.
3. Don't try to win a humility contest.
Remember when Kanye West was on the cover of Rolling Stone in a crown of thorns, and people were mad at him for comparing himself to Jesus? At the time, it seemed disrespectful and blasphemous. But here we are, 12 years later, still talking about it, and still talking about him.
You don't have to pull a Kanye-size stunt. You don't have to downplay your accomplishments and strengths either. Trying too hard to be humble doesn't come off as charming or endearing; it mostly makes people uncomfortable.
I'm proud of myself and what I've been able to accomplish in my short life, and I don't feel the need to be shy about it. Being loud lets my competitors know what I've been up to, and encourages them to share what they've been up to with me, which is always beneficial.
4. Don't try to be better than everyone else.
We all know we're competing with one another, whether we act like it or not. It's OK to admit that; what's not OK is wasting your time figuring out how to take on 10, 20, or 50 competitors at once.
You only have to be better than your immediate competition. You know that story about those two guys in the woods? A bear finds them and starts chasing them. "There's no way you can outrun that bear," one guy says to the other. "I don't have to outrun the bear," his friend says. "I just have to outrun you."
Keep the closest eye on whoever's right next to you, and try to be better than them.
5. Reinvent or die.
When you go through a big life change, you get lots of attention. Whether it's a haircut, a new job, a move, or an engagement, everyone wants a piece of you--whether you like it or not.
It's the same way in business. That's why your favorite apps, including Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, are constantly looking to update their interface and add new features. To be honest, reinvention is the reason Kiip is still alive; other companies have started to grasp moments-focused advertising, so we're no longer the only ones doing it.
But that's OK, because now we've moved beyond mobile gaming into connected TVs, and are getting involved with cryptocurrency initiatives. You've got to keep growing, expanding, and reinventing if you want to keep public interest and keep a leg up on your competition.