iTunes/Spotify, Facebook/Google+ and Why Competition Is a Beautiful Thing

Last week I spent a few hours getting to know Google Plus. This week I did the same with Spotify. Both are excellent products and I am thrilled at their arrival. And if you are a loyal Facebook and iTunes customer or use any other social networking or online music service, you too should be thrilled.

Indeed, competition is a beautiful thing.

For competition to truly work - and by work I mean raising the quality and improving the functionality of products throughout a respective category - someone really has to build a better mousetrap. A lot of products have claimed to "compete" or offer alternative solutions to Facebook or iTunes but please, most have been nothing more than knockoff imitations that, well, aren't that good.

But Google+ and Spotify are the real deal (and they did a stellar job at their product launches). And both will positively impact their markets. And consumers will benefit tremendously.

These recent product launches remind us of just how fleeting products, brands, market share and customer loyalty can be. Sorry folks, but it is a misconception that customer loyalty is a lasting, unbreakable bond. So note to marketers via Ray Davies - Be Always on Your Guard. Don't stop innovating and don't stop marketing.

It also reminds us that nobody - not even the most respected industry analysts - can predict what the future may bring.

And that is a beautiful thing - and what gets people like myself out of the bed in the morning.

Nothing inspires product innovation like competition. Trust me, I know first hand how competition can light a flame under one's hind quarters. After our initial success with software in the early 2000's we got lazy and enjoyed what seemed like endless revenue streams and profits (make that me - I take full responsibility) . We stopped innovating mainly because nothing pushed us - there was a lack of competition. Wow - what a mistake. As competition started to clean our clock we refocused on product development. And while we have corrected our complacency with a series of software improvements the best is yet to come. We are releasing a series of software enhancements and other new products in Q4 and Q1 2012 that I believe will have a significant impact on marketing and PR within the HR and perhaps broader B2B marketplace. None of this would have happened without serious competition in our space. And once released, we will likely inspire others to raise their game. And so the Circle Game goes on and on (sorry, I can't avoid musical analogies - I've been testing Spotify!).

And while we all may hate it when it impacts our company - competition that is - we cannot doubt that in the end, competition is a great thing for our personal and professional growth and the products and services that we develop. And guess who else benefits? The customers, conference/event organizers, media outlets, analysts, consultants, etc., etc. Without competition many are out of work. And all take a pay cut.

This is one of the many reasons I love to work with fellow entrepreneurs and innovators in the human capital marketplace. It is these companies that we all should embrace and thank. For they are the ones who drive innovation and inspire all of to raise our game. Granted, many start-ups and new innovations fail but without them even the big enterprise companies would get old and stale and we as users would enjoy far fewer features.

And this isn't just about the money. Most true entrepreneurs would agree. It's about building great products and never being satisfied with your current offering. And nothing inspires innovation more than other people's cool stuff.

But to innovate only after the competition inspires you to do so is risky business. You must build a culture of innovation and constantly look for ways to break new ground and maintain relevance in your market. A book I am currently reading helps you along this path. It's called The Essential Advantage: How to Win with a Capabilities-Driven Strategy - check it out.

At the upcoming HR technology Conference in October there will undoubtedly be major announcements of new products and technologies in the HR marketplace. And to all a thank you in advance for driving innovation in our space (as painful as it may be when we are on the receiving end).

So go ahead. Innovate. And raise the tide for all in the human resources marketplace.

Post by HRmarketer CEO Mark Willaman. Join Mark on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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