Some people wouldn’t consider drinking any soda but Coca-Cola. That doesn’t stop Pepsi from trying – or from building a billion dollar, global business.
Some people wouldn’t entertain the idea of fast food, unless it was a Big Mac and fries, served beneath the golden arches. But that doesn’t stop Burger King, KFC, Taco Bell or any of the other fast food behemoths from carving out a chunk of the fast food market for themselves.
Sometimes, “competition” is an excuse used all too readily by businesses owners to give up, or somehow explain their shortcomings.
“Yeah, those guys do it better than we do. Let’s give up.” Surely you’ve thought those words to yourself one time, maybe more?
Here are my 6 tips for overcoming your biggest competitor.
Lose your inferiority complex
I know lots of people who have explored launching businesses in markets where there’s already a dominant force. Some of those businesses are VC backed schemes, with loads of potential (and millions of dollars in investment). Others are bootstrapped startups with a tiny budget and a penchant for thriftiness.
It really doesn’t matter who your competition happens to be – even if it’s Coca Cola or McDonald’s – it’s time to lose your inferiority complex. If you don’t believe in your business or brand, your customers sure as hell won’t.
Position your business a little differently
Sometimes it’s not about picking up on the flaws of your biggest competitors – it’s about positioning your business a little differently. People go to shop on Amazon because they like the fact they can buy anything from wet wipes to fishing hooks. It’s an emporium of products far larger than you or I can even comprehend.
So, how can you peddle the same things Amazon sell, at a higher price, while still winning customers? Well, in my opinion, no one goes to Amazon for a luxury shopping experience, do they? They go to Amazon because their prices are competitive, their shipping is fast, and they have customer service teams on hand to help if problems arise.
But what about those people who are happy to pay that little bit more, for a little bit of luxury? It’s perfectly possible to stock and sell products found on Amazon, for more than they cost on Amazon, and have people actually buy them from you. It’s all about how you position your website, how you brand yourself, and how you treat your customer.
If you go for cheap and nasty packaging then people will probably just buy the products from Amazon anyway – but if you go that extra mile to offer a shopping experience that even the big boys can’t provide, you’re onto a winner. Often, positioning your ecommerce business as a luxury outlet is a great way to win market share, while catering for customers who have that little bit of extra money to spend.
Expose their weaknesses
All businesses have weaknesses, even if they aren’t clearly visible.
With a small business often come limited resources. With big business comes a large workforce.
Sometimes, being big isn’t such a great thing after all. Core business values can become confused or lost between the layers upon layers of staff that separate head office from “the front line”. Sometimes, big businesses aren’t that great at customer service – or attention to detail just isn’t there in certain aspects of what the company does.
It’s up to you to identify and expose the weaknesses of your biggest competitor and do a better job than they do.
Let’s take Amazon, for example. My experience dictates that their customer support is outstanding – like really, really good. On the other hand, nothing annoys me more than when I search for a product on Amazon and the results page features two or three listings for exactly the same item. Amazon’s customer service is out of this world, but with such an expansive catalog of products, their product listings need some serious consolidating.
Trouble is, it would probably take a crack team of product listing consolidators several years. While they are working on cleaning up product listings, you are expanding your own selection while keeping clear, consistent good/better/best merchandising.
Even businesses perceived to be the best in their industry have their flaws, and that’s where you must find opportunity.
I can’t recall Amazon ever really over-delivering. If they say my items will arrive the next day, they normally do. If they say it’s $10 for an iPhone case, I pay $10 and get my iPhone case.
What a lot of smaller, boutique businesses tend to do is to make it their mission to over-deliver. Complementary candy, anyone? Yes please. A free pair of headphones with my iPhone case? You see where I’m going with this.
You don’t have to over-deliver 24/7, 365 days a year. But every now and then it’s great to give your customers a little something extra, like a tube of candy or some other free gift.
One of the ways in which we over deliver is with shipping – we state it’ll take 1-3 working days. Most people err on the side of caution and think “yep, I’ll get it in three days”. They’re pleasantly surprised when their products arrive the very next day.
Offer a superior range & superior products
Offering a superior range of products can be costly – it means you have to stock more SKUs than the competition, which ties up a lot of cash. On the flipside, if a you run a tie store and a customer wants to be swamped with thousands of different ties to choose from, they know to browse your website – not your competitor’s, where they only have 50 designs on offer.
As well as offering more products, you can also offer superior products. Your competitor only sells ties that are suitable for dry cleaning? No problem – you can stock a range of machine-washable ties, for the convenience of your customers.
Think outside the box a little and you’ll soon see there’s huge scope to offer a more expansive collection of products than your competition – and far superior products at that.
Forget they even exist
If the satisfaction of offering more products and a better service isn’t enough to help you shake that inferiority complex, you can always try forgetting your biggest competitor even exists.
Block them out of your mind completely – don’t visit their website or social media channels, just focus on what you are doing and what you can control. After all, stalking your competitor like a crazy ex-boyfriend or a stage-5 clinger won’t line your pockets, will it?
Competition is a funny old thing. For some people, competition turns out to be the driving force behind their success. For others, it’s a scary thing that resigns them to a constant fear of being outperformed.
My take on competitors is simple: Look at what they do, evaluate it, and do it better. There will always be competition out there, no matter what kind of business you operate. It’s time to realize that you can be just as successful as the next guy, so when you’re ready to overcome your biggest competitors, just shake that inferiority complex and keep rolling.