January 24, 2013
Entrepreneurs are competitive. They make it through hard work, intuition, and by fighting for clients, market share, and stability. Being competitive is an asset in the professional world, but sometimes this attitude can cause blindness in a business owner who becomes focused solely on the finish line. They become so worried about beating the competition that they forget to take a step back to study and learn from their competitors.
Knowing who and what your competitors are doing will encourage you to work smarter and stay focused. It can also help define your weaknesses and strengths. Embrace the competition. You just might build a better business because of it.
Where Motivation Comes From
Motivation is important when growing your business. And seeing your competition succeeding is one of the best ways to find motivation. It doesn’t always come easy and it doesn’t always last, but as Zig Ziglar once said, “Some people say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing — that’s why we recommend it daily.” We compete with companies like Amazon, and while that might seem big, bad, and scary, we remember the story of David and Goliath. Sometimes it’s actually more motivating to be “David” for a smaller company. It requires greater creativity, ingenuity, and a desire to find the Achilles’ heel of the giant!
Learning from the Competition
In some ways, bigger companies have already done some of the grunt work for you. The established, larger companies have usually educated the marketplace and invested the huge sums required to inform consumers about new products or services that they were previously unaware of. Think of those trying to replace an engineer’s slide rule with a calculator. It took years for the professional market to understand the value, dependability, and ease of this new tool.
Our product, free eBooks and related services, while in competition with some of Amazon’s services, has benefited from coming into the market and learning from a trusted and successful business. Here’s some ideas on how you can benefit from a competitive landscape:
- Established competitors provide market demand information on which you can base your new service/product. Research their successes and failures, and learn how you can improve upon them prior to entering an industry.
- Larger companies will most likely have an experienced marketing department. Study landing pages, the conversion funnel, and how the company presents information. This should give you some ideas on what works best and why.
- Research how the competition generates and executes on sales. Is there a way you can improve upon this process? Can you make it easier for the client or create a system that requires less overhead? Your business may be more nimble than a larger player in the market, and it will be easier for you to implement quick and impactful changes.
Embracing the Competition
If you work to truly understand the competition, you can position your company as the alternative to the competition. Here are some things you should look for:
- Understand the “big” business’s vulnerabilities and restrictions. These larger, more corporate organizations will have board members or stockholders to answer to, and so they will be much more cautious. If you can find a way to price your products or services to an amount that is difficult for bigger companies to match, then you’ll be better positioned as an alternative.
- Get to know your customers and their wants and needs personally. As a startup or small business you have the unique advantage of talking with your clients on a consistent basis. Most likely, many of your current clients have used your competitor’s services before. Find out what they liked and didn’t like. Use this information to build processes and products that provide something different from the competition.
- Build a loyal following. By providing one-on-one customer service and attention, you can really stand out for your customers. Most larger businesses won’t be able to provide the type of service that customers crave. Be the one who takes the phone call and solves the customer’s needs. You’ll find a loyal following that is built on more than free shipping.
Don’t Get Too Comfortable
For many companies, it is advantageous to learn from a competitor in a market they are entering. But don’t get too comfortable with being the new kid on the block. While emulating these big companies’ strategies or uses of technology can help you launch a successful venture, you should always be looking for ways to continue to innovate in that industry. What Amazon did to companies like Barnes & Noble and Borders could very well happen to your business. Embrace the competition, but keep the small business attitude and your own Achilles’ heel hidden.
Nicolas Gremion is the CEO of Paradise Publishers Inc.: operators of Foboko.com, a social publishing network where members get support writing their books from peers and Free-eBooks.net where you can download thousands of eBooks for free.
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