It’s completely normal to feel threatened by your competition.
There have been times when I’ve sat back and watched one of my competitors execute some spectacular launch and it made me feel so inferior that I momentarily questioned my entire career choice whilst shoving an entire packet of chocolate-coated comfort biscuits into my mouth!
As much as our competition can make us want to slip a wasp into their sandwiches sometimes, we must recognise that good competition is not only essential, it’s also healthy.
If you didn’t have any competition, then you wouldn’t need to evolve. In a world that is ever evolving, anyone or anything that doesn’t change will eventually become extinct.
However, how do we change effectively, and keep ahead of the competition, especially if we are gripped around the throat by lady jealousy?
In this article we will look at the ways that you can use competition to drive yourself forwards, and overcome your competitors in the ‘healthy’ way.
1. Don’t let your weeds grow while you admire their garden
It’s important to occasionally peak over the garden fence to see what your competitors are up to.
However don’t become totally preoccupied with admiring their roses, or you may not notice that the weeds in your own garden are beginning to choke your land to death.
It’s good to know what they’re up to, but if your peeking over the garden fence is turning into an obsessive spectatorship, it’s time to address the situation.
If you are feeling overwhelming emotions about your competitor’s every action then you know that you have perhaps let it get too far, and it might be time to draw back.
- What do you like about their operations that you could learn from or bring into your own business?
- What really gets at you most about what they are doing? Is it that they are faster than you? Have prettier landing pages than you? Seem to have more likes than you? If you write all of the things down that are causing your frustration or jealousy, it becomes clear what YOU need to do in order become THEIR competitor instead.
2. Keep in mind that their successes are not your failures
It can be an all too common experience for us to focus so much on what other people are doing, that our thinking shifts to what we are NOT doing ourselves.
We forget the massive project we are changing lives with on our side of the fence, and instead start obsessing about the fact that we haven’t done 30,000 tweets this month like our competitor did. We forget the client who we privately helped overcome a massive challenge yesterday, and instead beat ourselves up about the blog post we haven’t written this month like our competitor did.
We forget about the questions we answered on social media that helped a whole bunch of users and instead give ourselves grief about the fact that we have not been publically bigged up in another Facebook thread by a raving fan like our competitor has.
Just because somebody else is getting wins, it does not mean that you are losing.
3. You might not be envious if you knew the full story
Ever read a Facebook status or ad by a competitor and felt your intestines fold up into the shape of a middle finger that you wish you could wave right up their nostrils?
It’s like luck and magic just fall out of their behinds, while we seem to enjoy nothing but the sweet stench of life’s skid-marks.
But the thing is, we very rarely know all that went in achieving the status that we are jealous about – and believe me, we wouldn’t be jealous IF we knew!!
Your competitors are not exempt from the occasional feelings of inadequacy. I’d go as far to say that if you didn’t occasionally get these feelings, then you are dangerously in the realms of complacency.
However, the biggest problem is NOT the competition at all; if we knew their true struggles, we might not want their lives at all. Our biggest problem is US. It’s the pressure that we put on ourselves. If we truly ARE doing all that we can, then envy is less likely to creep in because we know we are operating at our best.
4. Concentrate on speed not size.
Today’s business success is not about size or budgets, it’s about our ability to quickly and rapidly respond to our audience’s needs.
Significant business can be obtained by simply being available quickly and responding to questions as they’re being asked.
It’s also about rapid flexibility to an ever-changing market need. As a small business owner or solopreneur, you are able to quickly respond and adapt to your market needs. You can do so in a very personable way. Remember you have significantly more advantages over the big guys than you think.
5. Know your unfair advantages and use them to differentiate yourself
In a world where targeting is becoming more and more intelligent, we get to see real-time ‘in your face’ reports of what our competition is up to. We live at risk of falling victim to comparing ourselves to their accolades instead of celebrating our own. So how do we solve this? By differentiating ourselves.
Don’t try to be as good as them – try to be different. Instead of focusing on all of the things they have, think about all of the things that you DO have yourself, and use these as your advantages.
6. They might be able to out-spend you, but they can’t beat your kindness
We now live in a world where size and budgets are not at all necessary to attain success however you may define it. Today’s secret to success is about being flexible, adaptable, ‘real’, accessible, friendly, kind and hardworking. Customers are choosing service providers, coaches, and consultants who they feel connected to. This means picking people they have a level of ‘friendship’ with.
Success is not rooted in budgets anymore; it flows from flexibility and brilliance. It’s not only possible for you to compete, but to entirely dominate a marketplace with no more than that.
7. You can’t work with 100% of the market – and you probably don’t want to
The reality is, with 7.2 billion+ people on earth, there are more customers than any of us could ever service in our lifetime. Even if you could, it doesn’t mean you’d want to service them all.
It’s important to work with people who fit your style, processes, and personality. We often spend more time at work – with our customers – than we do with our own families, so why work with people that frustrate, irritate, exhaust and trouble you?
Don’t ever be afraid to turn customers away. You’ll gain freedom where you may have had frustration and anxiety caused by working with people who you just don’t ‘fit’ with.
8. ‘Litmus test’ your customers
The next stage is to then find ways of filtering all of your inquiries so that you only let the perfect clients through. Here are some methods I use:
- Require all enquires to come through a formal form on our website. If they can’t be bothered to fill that in, we are not going to be a fit.
- Have a specific list of services and require them to select from an electronic form precisely which services they want. If they can’t find a service that’s on the menu, we are not the right provider.
- Have an electronic booking system for ‘quick chats’ or ‘strategy calls’.
- Send formal quotes from our accounting system instead of a written price in an email.
- They must sign – with a real pen – a formal ‘terms of service agreement’ which outlines explicitly what we have promised to deliver to them in clearly defined deliverables and what they must promise in return. No signature, no fit.
- An upfront payment for any service must be made before work commences. If you have got to this stage, and do not trust us to provide you the services as outlined in the signed agreement, then we are not a good fit.
- When payment is received, an electronic form must be completed by the customer with the information we require from them to complete their project. If they can’t be bothered to follow our processes and complete a simple form for us to do our best work for them, then they will get a full refund immediately, as we are not going to be a good fit.
- Part of our services agreement covers termination and what happens if either party wants to pull out of the agreement. If at any point in the process of working with somebody, we feel that a client is not the right fit, we follow the processes agreed on.
There are MORE than enough customers out there, and you definitely do not want to work with them all.
How do you test and filter your customers?
9. Collaboration, not competition
How do you persuade your direct competitor to happily and willingly introduce you to their best clients?
You make it worth their while.
What scenario would need to exist in order for you to get together with your competitors in a way that made all of you win?
Whether it’s a simple bit of ethical colluding on your pricing so that neither of you is pricing yourselves out of the market, to full-blown collaborations – how could you come up with a way of making it work in your competitor’s FAVOUR to recommend YOU?
10. Remember that your competitors are on the same journey
Business is tough and lonely sometimes.
We all have the same stresses – similar insecurities caused by self-employment and hungry mouths to feed around us.
If your competitor is in your industry, then you probably have a huge amount in common. Your passions, interests, expertise, goals, visions, aspirations, dreams and more. See that there is enough space for both of you to cruise along comfortably.. If you can’t handle that, then simply pick another route, there’s got to be more than one way to that place you’re both trying to get to.
11. There is enough to go around
In a similar note – when it comes to overcoming the fear of the competition, remember that there is more than enough business out there. To receive abundance, you need to keep yourself out of the grip of scarcity. Do two things:
- Write down exactly how many customers could you really take on to be at your absolute capacity right now, with the resources that you have.
- Times that by ten.
- Does that number come anywhere close to the number of people available in your global marketplace?
No matter how specialised your market is, I’m pretty confident that you could never handle it all. So let’s stop worrying about there not being enough, because there’s more business out there than you could ever need.
Sarah Cordiner holds the record for being the youngest University “Executive Director & Head of Campus” in Australian history; a university ranked number 1 in Australia at the time of her leadership, and is one of the most remote university campuses in the world. With over 14 years in business in the education industry, Sarah currently has over 180,000 students from 181 countries enrolled in her own online courses in her own global education company. @Sarah_Cordiner.
Competition stock image by Jo Panuwat D/Shutterstock