Yes! You DO Have Competitors!

Every once in a while, we work with a client who believes that they do not have any competition–they are unique or their product is so exceptional that there is just nothing that competes. Those client conversations are always just a little bit awkward because, in reality, every organization of any size has competition of one form or another. Even an organization that is introducing a truly unique and innovative new product will deal with “indirect competition” (literally, “any other alternative” to what they have to offer). Acknowledging competition can be tough, but it’s a critical step in determining how to best “position” and sell what it is that you have to offer.

One way to think about this is to ask yourself the question:

“If they didn’t have us, what would they do?” The answer to that question gives you a starting point in terms of thinking about the “competition” — even if your answer might reflect indirect competition. The restaurant industry provides a good way to think of this.

Suppose you would like to introduce a new Indian restaurant in your community. There is not another authentic Indian restaurant within 100 miles. There is, therefore, you determine, no competition. But, wait a minute! If your potential Indian restaurant patrons didn’t have you, what would they do? They’d likely choose some other type of restaurant–one that was available to them. That other restaurant (or the list of other restaurants) would represent “indirect competition.” It’s competition that doesn’t offer exactly what you have to offer, but something that could be considered a reasonable substitution.

If you do not consider these “reasonable substitutes” as you determine how you will market your goods and services, you limit your ability to come up with key messages that adequately–or exceptionally!–convey why what you have to offer is better than those other opportunities.

So, if I’m trying to introduce an Indian restaurant in a community that has Thai, Mexican, Mediterranean and traditional American restaurants at about my same price point, I’m going to want to consider ways that I might communicate to those in my community that represent my target audience to convey to them why what I have to offer is better. It might have to do with the atmosphere in my restaurant, or the convenient location, or the freshness of my ingredients, or the unique menu options, or the healthy nature of my food, or the celebrity chef I’ve hired–or any combination of the above.

The point is we’re all competing with something. We just have to be open-minded enough to admit that we all have competitors of one type or another. Because we do.

Here’s another example. One group we work with fairly frequently is consultants. Consultants could easily think that they have no competitors if there is no other consulting firm in their area that offers what they have to offer. But, every consultant in every industry and geography has the same competitor to consider: any company they’d like to sign on as a client that is currently “doing it themselves.”

Companies have the choice to outsource services or handle them internally. If they handle them internally, that represents competition. Therefore, if you’re a consultant you need to think about how you might position your services and create key messages that convey why using you, instead of internal staff, is a better value.

You can use the same thought process with any product or service. Think about it. Who are your competitors? Then, once you’ve identified them, how can you position what you have to offer to clearly convey the key benefits that can lead to new business?


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