Celebrate worthy rivals!
Updated: Aug 24, 2021
“…and what about your competitors?” Not at all a nasty or a surprising question coming from investors, banks, partners, or even potential customers. Entrepreneurs, as an answer to the question, then show more or less fancy graphs/tables to capture who the competitors are and how they are different, usually with themselves in the upper right corner or with most boxes checked when comparing features.
You can think about competitors as three different types; the first one being your immediate competitors. Those are the ones with whom your potential customers could - in their eyes – get the pain killed as efficiently as with you. Let me give you an example. A potential customer is looking to learn more about making Mexican food. Your class is full, the customer then looks for another that isn't, easy-peasy! But there is more to pay attention to!
The second set is the "lurking in the shadows competitors". Those are the ones who are the answers to “What could your customer do instead?”. In the example above they could learn to cook Lebanese food, they could go to a Mexican restaurant, they could order Korean take-out, or they could do nothing! Unfortunately, too many entrepreneurs stop here when trying to understand who they are competing with, thereby not allowing them to understand all others who, without any stretch of imagination, also can be counted as competitors.
Last but not the least, the third set, "the wallet and clock competition". The most important competitors for any business are the potential customers´ limitations of time and money. All people are restricted by either or both. They might really want to attend the Mexican cocking class – but they don’t have time, or they can't afford it.
Don't be discouraged! Being able to identify the first and second type of competitors means that there is a market space. Being able to accept that the third type exists is just to face the (brutal) restrictions in life. But don't stop here! Instead, let's turn the fact that you have competitors into an incredible advantage! Here is what I suggest that you do:
Start by renaming your competitors both in your mind and in your next presentation. Call them “Worthy Rivals*”. State their names and ask yourself; “What can I learn from them?”. Copy, adopt, and adapt, with an ambition of whatever they do – that is of relevance to you – you can use to your benefit.
Thereafter, when you have come to terms with that you actually have competitors, ask yourself “How can I turn them into partners?” Some you might, some you may not, but it is incredible what comes to mind when instead of dubbing them as competitors you view them as potential allies creating “win-wins” with them in your market space.
Finally, focus, focus, focus on what you can do much, much better for your customers than anyone else, thereby forgetting about your competitors. At the end of the day, it is not about offering something better than your competitors, it is about offering something that no matter what the competitors offer, whatever else your customers could do with their time and money; they will gladly pay what you ask for and be happy to spend time with the painkiller you sold to them.
So next time someone asks you “Who are your competitors?” You answer with “I don’t view them as competitors, to me they are worthy rivals.” You then show what you have learned from them, what you will adopt and adapt to your solution. And you end that section of a written or oral presentation by saying “I appreciate anything I can learn from my worthy rivals but for me, the focus is always on delivering a painkiller to my customers that they truly will appreciate.”
Please share with me how your perspective of competitors changes if you do what I suggest above or tell me flat out why I am wrong. So intrigued to hear from you!
*This is a term maybe coined by but for sure used by Simon Sinek in his incredibly insightful book “The Infinite Game”