Competition drives us to be the best that we can be. Competitors are a great source of motivation and energy for any organization, and the best companies look at their competitors not as the enemy, but as a source of dynamism for their own company. But sometimes, markets get oversaturated. When that happens, it can feel like all a company’s time and energy are spent just staying above water. Getting noticed can be hard. However, there are a few techniques that, when strategically applied, can make the process more tenable.
It's much easier to compete when there are fewer people in the room. While many professionals want to take on the world, this is not advisable, at least not right away. Instead, narrowing down the market to one specific niche allows you to hone in on that. Your marketing dollars and sales hours will go a lot further when targeted at one or two specific demographics. Competition is a sign that customers really do have the problem you are trying to solve and are willing to pay for a solution: your market is validated by competition. But, too much competition means one of two things; either too many people have noticed this problem and are consequently fighting over an ever-shrinking customer base, or there is no barrier to entry and you are working on a problem general enough that it doesn’t take a special skill set to solve.
So, if a company feels the pressures of intense, hyper-competition, there may be too many hands after too little pie. Signs and symptoms of this would be a heavy focus on scalping clients, regular price wars, and chronic losses or shrinking profits.
How do you find a smaller market in which to function? The key to reducing competition is to become very specific about what it is you do. Narrowing down your niche is accompanied by the added benefit of being regarded as an expert in your field. Instead of striving to become an all-around social media consultant, for example, focus branding on one specific social media network for one specific problem. In this way, a jack-of-all-trades social media consultant would turn into a specialized LinkedIn networking coach for medical professionals.
Everyone has varied interests and skills, typically well beyond the direct market they work in. But the secret to being successful in business is focusing on one thing at a time. Some companies can excel by offering a whole lot of mediocre products at a low price. The Wal-Mart strategy works well for Wal-Mart. But most markets already have their Wal-Mart. Trying to compete in the same space as an established big-box retailer is a guaranteed losing race to the bottom. Instead, pursue one product or service with a laser focus and become the industry expert by doing it better than everyone else.
This will require intentionality. Companies do not accidentally become the best at something. There are a thousand tools for recognizing specialties – SWOT analysis, PEST, design inspired iterative production, and many others. At their core, all of these frameworks force a business owner to really sit down and examine not only their own company but their industry as well. This sort of intentional, formalized approach to business opportunities will assist with identifying where your company holds a decisive competitive advantage, and thus tell you what to aim your laser at.
This is especially powerful if a trend or need is identified early on. When Indy Displays, an Indianapolis, IN based national trade show display supplier, was looking for their own unique niche, they identified LED backlit graphic technology as a growing industry trend they could excel in. The trade show marketing niche is notoriously crowded with competitive vendors, but they found a specific, narrow segment they could hone in on. Three years later, demand for LED backlit signage has skyrocketed and Indy Displays is at the front of the fastest growing trend in custom booth design.
While advertising will not – or rather should not – compensate for a bad product, the word does need to get out about a good product. Raising your brand does not have to entail an expensive, consultant led rebrand effort. It can be as simple as optimizing your website, creating a consistent brand message across mediums, and committing to posting content regularly. Whether you're on YouTube, Facebook, a proprietary website, or a blog, post regularly and give generously. Even if it is free to access, it still costs customers and prospects their time and attention to investigate your brand. For this reason, valuable, useful content is a must. Every interaction should involve some free value for customers.
Free value is the single best way to elevate your brand. Something as easy as a few tips or an industry insight simultaneously builds goodwill with customers and keeps them coming back for more. Customers notice when companies are selfish with them, and are more than happy to repay the favor. Goodwill is the single most powerful tool for building a long-lasting brand.
A niche for a company is a lot like an animal’s niche in the wild. Rather than fighting for resources with every other species, an animal can specialize and become exceptionally good at gathering resources one particular way, outcompeting all other animals in that specific area. If you focus on figuring out where your competitive advantage is, you'll have a clearer idea about how to generate leads and how to turn those leads into paying customers. Customers are responsive to a particular type of brand: a brand that is consistent, appropriately focused, and a generator of great content. Implement these strategies today, and reap the rewards associated with a structured business strategy.