How to Compete

dog racers How do we compete with other companies? What are our unique differentiators? In a world where everything is pretty much the same, what matters? They’re bigger than us. They have more budget than us. They have the market share.

Zappos had to convince thousands and thousands of customers that ordering shoes on the web was easy, and that their customer service policies were top shelf. They made a near-billion dollar correct bet on how they competed.

Craigslist revenues for 2009 were estimated to top $100 million dollars, and Craig Newmark built the company around the premise that excellent customer service and community involvement were the key.

Peter Shankman build HARO (Help A Reporter Out) as a free-to-receive thrice-daily email newsletter to support reporters’ need for information, and has pocketed quite a tidy sum by being helpful to others.

Helpful is always a powerful way to compete.

Other Ways to Compete

Want some more hints? Think about these words:

  • Velocity – Can you build a faster experience for people? Can you build a slower one?
  • Distance – Can you eliminate distance? (the web does this). Can you make distance a value? (vacation spots)
  • Distribution – Can you jump a gate? Jim Koch of Samuel Adams hand-delivered his beer to many bars until someone bought.
  • DIY – Can you empower others in the spirit of do-it-yourself? Does your product or service empower others?

Even More Ways to Compete

  • Can you solve a problem I didn’t know I have? – VirginUSA solves my “flying is kind of boring” problem.
  • Can you remove steps?BatchBlue formed relationships with Shoeboxed, which allows me to mail my business cards to Shoeboxed, and have them show up in my contact database at BatchBlue, thus powering my contact management.
  • Can you create a new marketplace for me? – The iPhone isn’t an amazing phone. It’s a gatejumper for services the other telcos refused to provide, and it’s open for developers to try and make their fortunes. See also Threadless. See also Second Life (virtual goods is still alive and well).
  • Can you equip me to succeed? – My Monster Outlets to Go (amazon link) power cord with 3 plugs and a USB port is invaluable to me at airports, where I often have to charge and run. The USB port is the magic (to me)

It’s a dodgy game to compete on price. It’s always a race to the bottom. It’s never fun to compete by name-calling or bragging over your competitors. Instead, really earn it with us by competing in ways that will empower both you and us.

Do you agree? And more importantly, how are you competing right now?

Photo credit, Nebbish1

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  • http://www.zoombits.co.uk/batteries/battery-chargers battery chargers

    Congratulations! We must say that usually when something this big occurs, it only means improvements and overall a better experience with whatever company acquires the other. We look forward to seeing what this brings!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jeff-Ogden/751252471 Jeff Ogden

    Very good post, Chris. The world is filled with me-too products. No one has to do anything, so businesses must stand out in some way.

    Forgive my self-promotion, but you'll find ideas in lead generation at http://findnewcustomers.net and a discussion at http://fearlesscompetitor.com

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  • Colin Bartley

    Great article, I can really relate to your last paragraph. I bought a new piece of sporting equipment into a competitive market, it was well made and performed better than the competitors. My competition didn't like it, I was bagged on forums, my product slammed, accused of being illegal and they even tried to have it banned by the governing sporting body. I stayed calm didn't respond to the detractors once and never criticised them. I also gave the athletes something they never had before, I offered the clubs a free service where I would brand the equipment with a potential sponsors logo and imagery to help get the club sponsorship. Didn't look back.

    It did also help that I managed to get a couple of the top teams at the time to use the equipment in an important event and win of course. But I never once put down my competitors. I now have 90% market share.

    cheers

    Col

  • Colin Bartley

    Great article Chris, I can really relate to your last paragraph. I bought a new piece of sporting equipment into a competitive market, it was well made and performed better than the competitors. My competition didn't like it, I was bagged on forums, my product slammed, accused of being illegal and they even tried to have it banned by the governing sporting body. I stayed calm didn't respond to the detractors once and never criticised their products. I also gave the athletes and sporting clubs something they never had before, I offered the clubs a free service where I would brand the equipment with a potential sponsors logo and imagery to help get the clubs sponsorship to buy the new equipment. Didn't look back. I now have 90% market share.

    Cheers Col

  • http://akova.wordpress.com/ Francis Bélime

    Good points…manage competition is the key factor in business success !
    To be read by all young entrepreneurs…

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  • http://www.mohanarun.com/ Mohan Arun L

    Craigslist never had to compete – it was a pioneer in the online classifieds area, and quickly grew to be a household name, easily recallable.

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  • http://www.craigbiertempfel.com/ craig

    xlnt advice here
    thnx for sharing it!

    http://www.craigbiertempfel.com

  • http://www.purelife-shoes.com/ Timberland shoes

    I can' agree more.

  • http://www.purelife-shoes.com/ Timberland shoes

    I can' agree more.

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  • http://www.memorybits.co.uk/ usb flash drive

    Thing people forget when they compete in some ways that you should stand out. Too many people copying your competition too much. They assume it will work for them for competitive working. What are the passion for sustainability, and a sprinkle of uniqueness is just the beginning. Also, you need the attitude that you can win

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  • http://twitter.com/TINYVOX TinyVox: Tape&Tweet

    This was such a powerful article that it has ambiently taught me lessons on SEO also.  I’d love your thoughts about how to take on a SPECIFIC competitor – like, we think TINYVOX is a faster way of creating amazing text than Dragon, and we were thinking of just doing a comparison YouTube video, but any other tactics you’ve seen work in the trenches of firm on firm competition ?  Thanks !!! Awesome I get to be the first one to +1 this :D

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