A minute spent understanding the competition is a minute not spent listening to customers, potential customers, and near-miss customers, who would be happy to tell you directly what it would take to sell to them.
That’s absolutely true. I almost never look at the competition. The only time I really check out the competition is when drawing up ideas for new products. That’s to make sure my product is actually does something new, or does something that’s been done but in a new way.
But once the product’s out, customer feedback is really all I listen too. It’s also the reason why I keep doing much of the customer support myself. Time I spend on support cuts significantly into the time I spend on design and development. But I doubt I would be able to do that design and development as well as I do if I shielded myself from customer feedback.
I’ve been using this strategy for over a decade with great success. The thing is, your customers do look at your competitors when they’re evaluating similar solutions. And they’ll tell you about your competitor’s strengths that really matter, not the ones that simply fill up the feature matrix.
The Features and Customers post I wrote on my old blog last year has some more details on how I keep track of customer feedback.