Monday, April 6, 2009

Who is My Competition?

Erica Marshall/

...And how am I different?

Someone asked me the other day if and how they should engage with their "competition". I'm putting that word in quotes, because when she wrote it, I tried to not make any assumptions about what she intended because what defines someone as our competition?
  • They sell the same thing we do
  • They provide the same service that we provide
  • They advertise something the customer views as similar
That last one is particularly interesting to me as a Business Mentor. In my case, folks may not even know what I do, but lump me together with folks providing a variety of small business services. This means that unless you differentiate yourself in the marketplace, you may not have an even be reaching your audience.

20 years ago, or even 10 years ago it took a lot of work to figure what you were up against in the market. Perhaps you "shopped" someone else's product or service. These days there's so much information available as internet marketing is everywhere. We can see the mission statement of almost any company within a matter of seconds. That's a great thing! If we are on a social media site we can see those other folks interacting, know when they are posting new items to their store or writing a new blog piece.

All of this information can benefit us in at least 3 different ways
  • We can see trends in real time
  • We can find clearer ways to differentiate ourselves
  • We can see other's "mistakes" and avoid them
One of the downfalls of having all of this information is that you assume that your customer has it too. Perhaps your marketing is starting "mid sentance" in a way, believing that they have the same knowledge base as you do. Chances are they don't.

When I work with a new client, I come to them and their product as a consumer. I look at it from the outside before I get to the inside. I take them at face value and then as a Mentor, unlike your average consumer, I don't walk away but walk towards them with this information. Even though after I look deeper I can see they have a great product, I let them know that perhaps I just wanted to walk away after opening their door (real or virtual). It's hard stuff to hear but it's also the answer to the query: I just don't know what's going on with my customers.

I started this with talking about your competition and have ended it with looking at yourself from the perspective of a consumer. That makes sense. That's exactly what your customer does as they see you and your competition in the marketplace!

Information is your friend, as long as you don't spend too much time looking to the left and the right. A balance of seeing your surroundings and seeing your way forward at all times is what you need.

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