The Upside of Competition
In a free market, competition is the name of the game and provides benefit to the customer by offering a wide range of options, improved services and products as well as affordable pricing.
The benefit of competition to your particular business is the incentive to keep you on your toes, be innovative in your marketing and customer service policies, and inspiring you to find new ways to serve your target audience. On the same token, you could lose focus on what makes you unique and outstanding if you’re monitoring every move of your competitors.
“Competition is not only the basis of protection to the consumer, but is the incentive to progress.” – Herbert Hoover
The Downside of Competition
Recently, I’ve heard a lot of nightmare stories from local business owners of the sometimes manipulative and devious ways competitors were striving to steal business away from them. One competitor stole their marketing plan, using the same name and terms of their promotions. Another company has an unfair advantage of knowledge when a new local business registers for a license, thus enabling them to make the first cold call before its competitors even know the business is going to open. A retail store was betrayed by a former employee who stole their suppliers’ list, customer list and purposely undercut their prices. Others have bad-mouthed their competitor to their clients, colleagues and anyone who would listen to endeavor to impair their competitors’ brand.
Are these rather unscrupulous strategies necessary to come out on top? Should coming out on top be the goal? How should you handle such attacks and should you retaliate? And how does resorting to such attacks or retaliation affect your brand?
How to Deal with your Competitors
1. For the most part, ignore the competitor. Do you feel confident of your company’s product or service? Do you provide great customer service at a fair price? Do you have a loyal client base that now only provide repeat business but also referrals? If you have a solid business plan, and effective marketing plan, then why do you need to worry about what your competition is doing? If they are working to impair your brand, step up efforts to showcase what makes you stand out among your competitors. Clarify your message so you are answering their attacks in a positive, professional way.
2. Don’t be a copycat. If you follow their lead with new products, marketing ideas, branding, website content, and social media posts, you have lost your own identity and what makes your company unique. Your customer base will eventually see that you have no originality and you will appear disingenuous and lacking personality. Rely on your unique experiences, lessons learned, your own skill set and personality to forge your own path.
3. Don’t play dirty. When your competitor resorts to more unprincipled methods, as the examples brought out earlier, it can be very upsetting and frustrating. How do you effectively deal with shady competitors? Should you lower your standards so you can retaliate in like fashion? Um, that’s a big NO! Don’t get in the mud bath with them, as it would only achieve cheapening and dulling your own brand. Hold your head up high, ignore the attacks as much as you can, and do not publicly discuss the matter (i.e. social media).
4. Deflect Competitors’ Attacks. If they are lying, slandering, cheating or plagiarizing your content marketing, you may need to approach your competitor in a neutral setting in a private setting, whether in person or on the phone. The motive should be find resolution by addressing the issue, and possibly even getting to know what makes them tick. Your initiative to reach out may earn their respect, and make roads to a more peaceful co-existence. You may find that you appeal to different demographics or can benefit each other through partnership and open communication. Even if they deny their actions or motives, at least you have alerted them that you are watching which may prevent similar future attacks.
5. Calm down. There are so many joys and rewards in being an entrepreneur and so many ways to show your creativity and people skills. Competitor’s attacks can hurt and cause knee-jerk emotional reactions that can cause long-term damage. Instead take time to calm down before you do anything, count the blessings you’ve experience thus far, and then recount the many ways you excel in business. You can also talk to a trusted friend or business consultant of how to handle the specific attacks. Remember, if your competitor is resorting to shady attacks, they are obviously desperate because of their own deficiencies. Eventually the customers will see those flaws as well.
In conclusion, competition encourages choice and fair pricing and in most cases competitors are professionals who run their businesses in a fair and honest way. So view competition as a source of inspiration, rather than a curse. Keep an eye on what your they’re doing but focus your priority on what makes you different and how you can continue to grow and connect to your customers. Be positive, be genuine and protect your brand.