The competitive lines in business aren’t nearly drawn as cut-and-dry as they are in the world of sports. Because of this, the word is often vilified for a number of reasons. It isn’t all about wins and losses though, dominating over other teams or, in our case, other businesses (even though business “wins and losses” do affect your bottom line). Therefore, being competitive in business comes down to developing your own market intelligence – recognizing the market you’re in and being driven by what you see from your fellow professionals to deliver the absolute best to your clients and your professional community.
Do an online search and see who’s out there. Take a close look at other businesses in your service category specifically. Look at their websites and social media feeds. More than likely, you’ve identified a pretty specific niche for yourself. Recognizing similarities and differences is a significant first step to building your competitive edge. What level of experience do they have? Are they members of any local or national organizations? Do they have any certifications or donate their time and talent to any nonprofits?
Your potential clients will be looking at three to four of these other businesses every time they “walk in your door”, digitally or physically. That is, if you’re lucky enough to get them to it. It is extremely poor form to comment on the quality of anyone else’s business but it’s always good to know who they are and what they uniquely offer should your prospective customers bring them up in conversation.
What are other people in your market offering? Are they offering packages, or allowing clients to customize product and service options to meet their specific needs? Are they providing add-on services? Do they specialize in one thing? Who are they working with? Are they up on the latest trends? Are they making trends or just reporting the news? Knowing the offerings, price points, strengths and weaknesses of your market must directly translate to you defining the very same of your own business. This, in turn, will help you to sell yourself with intent and confidence when meeting with potential clients.
Your business “market” is defined as your direct relationship with your target customers. Since we work in an industry built on physical experience, that becomes even more specific to geographic location. Where you and your fellow pros market and do business becomes just as important as what actually gets done. Where are your colleagues working? How far do they travel and what venues and other partners do they work with regularly? Where are they marketing their businesses, and how? Are there potential search terms or hashtags they’re using that could apply to yours or work to define others specific to your unique offerings? Are there advertising platforms they’re using that you might not have considered for your business?
A strong awareness of where your fellow pros are working, who they partner with and where they make first contact isn’t to lay the blueprint for your business (although mimicry is the greatest form of flattery). Instead, it educates your decisions to ensure you’re doing business in the right places, you’re working with the right partners and are poised to meet the right clients for you.
Let’s face it: we’re all in a creative industry. We all crave inspiration and crave to inspire. Knowing what others in your market are doing can certainly help in this capacity. Need to build your network? Looking around to see what groups your peers are investing can help you identify the right one to help. How’s your social media marketing game? Following the local pros can give you fresh perspective or help you push more or better content.
The power of a competitive approach to business has less to do with knocking out your peers from the market landscape. It has everything to do with taking a more critical eye at your own business by looking at how you can rise to the challenges they help you identify, and make your business better tomorrow than you are today.