The Truth About Your Competition

Erin Ferree

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Many business owners get very worked up about the issue of “The Competition". But there are many things to keep in mind about “Them" as you define your competition and plan marketing materials that stand out:

Big businesses aren't your only competition. Be sure to think about the smaller businesses that offer similar products or services-sometimes they can be more of an issue than their size indicates.

Your competitors are not just the other businesses that provide similar products or services to yours. Your competition also includes the other things that your customer could purchase to solve their problem, even things that aren't in your immediate field. For example, massage therapists and chiropractors could be in direct competition for relief of back pain. Also, look for alternative solutions that might give your clients more pleasure-for example, a married couple having problems might be more likely to go on a vacation than to seek counseling.

Your competitors are often afraid of you, because you're their competition, too! So, keep that in mind-you don't need to be terribly concerned about them in many cases. Don't make yourself a wreck over it.

Inaction, indecision, and postponement are other often-overlooked competitors. What happens if a client decides not to undertake the project or make the purchase? In these cases, you still don't get the sale, making this a valid form of competition that you should be concerned about. Your competitors can even help you in many ways:

Direct cooperation: Partnering with your competition can expand the services that you offer, enhance your product offering, and allow you to brainstorm and leverage the knowledge of others in your industry. Cooperation can often be more powerful than competition.

Educating your target market: The competition's articles, websites, and marketing materials can help to educate your clients so that they come to you with enough knowledge to make an informed decision. You can even think of your competition's articles and information as work you don't have to do, as long as you agree with their viewpoint and find their pieces well-written. You could form an alliance with them to sell their information products as an affiliate, and make some extra money that way. Or you could link to their articles from your website to give your visitors more information on your industry.

Creating a stir: Competition between your business and other businesses can generate publicity for your service or product offering, which can generate more perceived need or desire for the things that you offer. You might even get mentioned by name in an article!

Providing information about what you are not: You can contrast your business with well-known competitors to point out what makes you different. By stating how you're different from a competitor who is widely known, you can often more easily express your differentiation.

As you can see, there's more to identifying The Competition than just finding other businesses that offer similar services to yours. You have to consider small and large businesses in your industry, and you have to think about the other businesses that provide other solutions to your clients’ problems or give them more pleasure. You also shouldn't worry overly about your competition-they're often concerned about you as well. And watch out for inaction-clients might do nothing instead of purchasing your solution. Finally, remember that your competition can provide you with quite a bit of help-competition doesn't have to be a bad thing!

Erin Ferree is a brand identity designer who creates big visibility for small businesses. As the owner of elf design, Erin is passionate about helping her clients stand out in front of their competition and attract more clients. Her workbook, “Stand Out! Differentiate Your Business to Build a Solid Foundation for Your Brand", will help you to define your difference and find your best niche.


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