We all want to think our products and solutions are unique, differentiated and give us a competitive advantage in the marketplace. After all, we're passionate about what we do. We wouldn't be in business if we weren't. But competition often has the characteristics of a chameleon.
I find that businesses often underestimate who/what they're competing against. They think that just because no other company does what they do in the exact way that they do it, that their competition is minimal.
This perspective has its drawbacks.
Let's say a company designs what they think is a product with a unique approach to solving a problem they see in the marketplace. They look around at other companies that have identified themselves as serving their target market and say - "We're unique and different. We have no competition."
Their content marketing and messaging is built upon that platform of "the one and only."
Taking the stance of "the one and only" has it's own drawbacks. It raises the question of why you're the only one doing it that way if it's the best way? The risk meter swings to red and people back away, not wanting to pioneer uncharted territory.
Aside from that, the reality is that people solve problems in a variety of ways. Unless they think exactly as you do and have your level of passion, they may not have any interest in approaching the problem in the way you've chosen.
It's not enough to look at the offerings being put forth in the marketplace. We need to find out how companies are actually solving the problem, or the workarounds they're putting in place to avoid having to solve it. We also need to look at why they would choose not to solve it at all.
- Is the pain excruciating enough?
- Have they exhausted all other options?
- Is the perceived complexity of the solution too daunting for them to tackle?
- Is the problem noticeably limiting business growth?
- Are there other resources they can throw at it to reduce impact?
- Are they blaming something else for the cause of the problem than what you address?
- Does their organizational culture make them resistant to your solution?
- Will solving this problem open a Pandora's box of other problems that could be worse than what they're dealing with today?
- How long will your solution last before they have to deal with this issue again?
Keep in mind that the answers to these questions can be different for each stakeholder involved with the problem. In fact, stakeholders can also be your competition.
What companies fail to acknowledge is that competition comes in many forms. Your competition also shifts along with the business environment. When you do your competitive analysis, expand your thinking beyond the traditional SWOT charts (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threats) to include sources in addition to products similar to yours.
What you learn could truly point the way to messaging that resonates because it gets to the heart of the matter from the buyers' perspective.
And yes, once again we've circled back to our buyers and customers. Funny how that works, isn't it?