‘I’m going to concentrate on running my own race’ says many an athlete before an event. You can see the logic in this. You don’t want to let opponents dictate your style, to always be reacting or to succumb to worry about what others might do. However, if you are up against competition, you can’t simply ignore them.
Competition is a good thing. If you’re starting to notice competitive pressure, you know your business is on to a good thing. If there is no competition, or none has risen to meet your success, you have to question whether there is a market for the product or service you provide. The rise of competition is a growing pain – yes, it’s a pain, but it means you’re growing.
When dealing with competition, it would be nice to operate like the athlete and ‘run your own race’, but it’s not realistic. Keeping an eye on the competition is not a resignation to be passive or reactive either – you’re also looking to see how they react to what you do. With this in mind, here are some thoughts on how to react when others start responding to your success.
There’s no need to panic. As we’ve seen, competition is a sign you’re doing something right. Don’t feel terrible that others are taking a share of the market. Be realistic – if you had 100% of the market tomorrow would you be able to cope with the extra business? Analysing your competition provides an extra diagnostic tool for you and competition forces you to keep innovating and adapting, which is a good thing.
Even when large numbers of businesses are offering similar products or services, no two are alike. You need to ensure that you identify and capitalise on what makes yours different. You need to differentiate and to do so on your terms! All too often it is assumed that being cheaper than the competition is the only weapon available. This just isn’t true, especially for a flexible small business. Perhaps your business is more affordable, but it could equally be more specialised, more ethical or offer more payment options.
This last point is common sense but not always common practise. When competition arises, many people want to go on the offensive. It’s a ‘best form of defence is attack’ mentality which makes sense as long as your offence doesn’t involve being offensive. Rubbishing the competition has never been viewed as professional and isn’t likely to be any time soon. You can’t ‘run your own race’ whilst blindly ignoring the competition. However, you can study them, assess their strengths and weaknesses, build your own game plan and then run your race. Then you can leave them for dust.