How Can Your Competitors Help You?

09 October 2012

It’s a mistake to look at your competitors and see a problem. Your job is not to beat your competitor, your job is to use them to position yourself in a better place than you were before. Your competition can be one of your greatest assets just so long as your strategy is not to constantly go head to head against them.

Here’s the thing to bear in mind when you look at your competition: believe it or not, there really is room enough for the both of you in this town.

The most obvious way to use your competitors to your benefit is to go to the opposite edge from where they stand. As an example, let’s look at what at any high profile coffee shop chain. They offer premium priced coffee so that they can appeal to the busy professional. They offer an atmosphere something akin to a more upscale fast food joint. They sell to people who don’t have a lot of time to hang out, but might come in and sit down for lunch, and they make more on their premium coffee drinks than they do on black Java.

You would have to be crazy to look at this and see how successful they are and think “We need to do the exact same thing but better.”

You can’t be Starbucks or Costa but better unless you have the money and resources to deliver phenomenally better coffee than they do, phenomenally better atmosphere and even pricier coffee. The competing coffee shop owner just doesn’t have those resources.

Far better for the coffee shop entrepreneur to position Starbucks as the antithesis of what he or she does. Starbucks has high priced coffee, well we have affordable coffee. Starbucks is for busy professionals, well we’re for starving artists and college kids with a lot of free time but not a lot of money. Starbucks focuses on premium coffee drinks, well we just make sure that our black brew tastes really great and we offer all of this in a homey atmosphere that invites you to just chill out for as long as you like.

You may not be selling coffee, but chances are your competitor is only worth watching because they’re taking their product or service to one edge or the other. Unless you have the resources to squash them on their own turf, your best bet is to go to the opposite edge, using their market share to your advantage by holding them as an example of everything that you’re not.

Please note: This article is a commentary on general principles and should not be interpreted as advice for your specific situation.

Image courtesy of cooldesign at

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