Ahhh. Competition. It’s one of the most critical elements we consider when developing marketing strategies for a client. The mere mention of the word can make one sit a little straighter and feel a little more defensive.
But it doesn’t have to.
I overheard a conversation at my son’s t-ball game the other day and it got me thinking about competition. The husband of a friend of mine owns a small jewelry store in my area and there is another jewelry chain coming into town.
My friend (who’s husband owns the first small jewelry store) was asked by another woman how her husband felt about this new store coming to town. She was very upbeat and positive. Instead of the expected defensive nature, she was in fact, genuinely unbothered by it. She knew that this store did not deal in custom orders and felt their presence might actually provide them MORE business. This new store had already sent business their way in the past and they already were friendly with the owners and shared a mutual respect.
I remember when my husband had a brief stint as a gallery owner in a small Hill Country town. Instead of other gallery owners feeling threatened upon announcement of this new gallery, I was surprised to find them welcoming it with open arms. As a marketer, I’m not sure why that surprised me. But their logic was that the more galleries that came to this town, the more people would think of this town as an “art destination” and then the more people they would get to THEIR own galleries.
It is so easy to want to “take the gloves off” when we hear about a new competitor. But before you start imagining yourself stepping on their head to get up the ladder, remember some important things.
1. Are they really competition? Just because they are in the same industry, do they serve the exact same clientele. (My jewelry friend, for example.)
2. If they don’t, great—embrace them. You never know when you can scratch their back and they can scratch yours. The gallery my husband owned was a photo gallery. The other galleries were traditional art. Somewhat different targets. So we all worked collaboratively to create an annual event to draw art lovers. Now there are numerous galleries and the event is still going strong — 10 years later. As another example, our gallery did not provide framing, but because they had been so encouraging to us, we sent all framing work to one of the other galleries. If we had received negative vibes, I’m not so sure we’d have felt so giving.
3. If they do, bummer—but still embrace them. Congratulations! You just got a whole new incentive to “up your game.” It would be pretty boring if the swimmers in the Olympics swam by themselves individually. What makes them go faster and break all those records? It’s not the fans looking on saying “He’s so great!” It’s the swimmer seeing someone only one hundredth of a second behind him. (OK, maybe those new body girdles have a little to do with it.) But having competition is what makes our blood pump. You might even uncover some nugget of gold that you never knew you had in you.
4. Analyze them. Do you really think they are better than you? Then instead of going and sulking in the corner, analyze them and figure out why? Do they have a better product? Better marketing? Better attitude or brand? What could you be doing better? On the other side of the coin, figure out what YOU have that they don’t. In other words, get to know them as well as you know yourself.
5. Use your competitive energy wisely. Don’t worry about keeping tabs on all your competitors. It will just eat you alive. Back to the swimming scenario—that swimmer is only concerned with the 1, 2 or 3 swimmers that are the closest to him. Trust me, he’s not worried about the guy 50 yards back just because he’s in the same pool.
This applies to small jewelry stores and large mega-corporations. Remember truly understanding what your competition means to you could be the difference between the survival or demise of your business.
Want more? Here’s a great article on this very topic. Among the many great lines is this: “Truth is, we succeed or fail in business largely due to our attitude and character, than on circumstances.”
By Trish McCabe Rawls