‘Competition’ might just be the scariest word in the entire business vocabulary, but there are some steps you can take to deal with it.
1. Accept the fact that competition exists
When you’re first starting out, its very easy to fall into the trap of thinking that your idea is so original and so unique that nothing in the world could possibly exist like it. I hate to break it to you, but that’s a fantasy. I can almost guarantee that your competition exists in one form or another. It doesn’t even have to be exactly the same as you; it could be a similar solution for a different market or an existing practise in a sector you’re trying to disrupt. Whatever it is, the first step in dealing with competition is acknowledging that it exists.
2. Do your research
So how do you find out what the competition is? Bite the bullet, and do your research. Yes its scary, yes ignorance might feel like bliss, but its always best to be prepared. The last thing you want is to be talking to an investor or a potential client and to hear the stomach dropping words ‘But isn’t this just like *insert company here*?’ There’s going to be competitors, so you might as well know about them as soon as possible.
3. Don’t panic
So, when you find the dreaded competitor, what are you not going to do? Panic. Just because something vaguely similar exists, it does not mean you need to immediately quit and give up. Especially for a start-up, when a competitor with more money or more experience or more clients shows up, its easy to feel like you don’t have a hope of getting ahead. Panicking won’t change a thing, but there are some far more practical steps you can take to solve the problem, which leads me onto my next point…
4. Compare and contrast
When completing a competitor analysis, there are a few key things you need to consider:
- What is it that they actually do? Chances are, even if they seem similar, there are going to be a few key differences – maybe its the audience you’re trying to reach, or the tools you use to create the solution. Work out what it is that you do differently. To start with, this will help calm your nerves when you realise that they’re not exactly the same as you.
- How can you use it to your advantage? If your competitor has been around for a while, its probable that they’ve made a few mistakes along the way. Do some more research, and try to learn from those mistakes – it’ll save you time, and you’ll catch up quicker.
- How can you diversify? My main advice would be to find out what you do differently to the competition, find out what you do better – and then do more of it. Maybe you operate in different sectors, maybe you use a more sophisticated technology. Find what makes you better, and capitalise on it.
5. Put it in perspective
Eventually, you’ll have gone through the steps above so many times that you’ll be a seasoned pro. Two years ago, I’d see a new competitor and immediately feel as though the sky was falling down. Now, the first thing I ask myself is “What can I do about it?”. Yes, competition exists, but it doesn’t make what you’re doing any less valuable.