How to compete – Lesson 2 : Be different

If you want to compete in the online industry you will already know there is an enormous amount of competition. You can go head to head with the big hitters if you like, but you will always be going uphill. One advantage the smaller players have in this industry is versatility, the ability to change quickly without all the corporate red-tape restrictions. The ability to be different!

There are barriers to being different, like there are in many areas, but most of it is in your imagination. It is easy to doubt the wisdom of being different, and to think “if it was worth being different then everyone would be doing it”, but in actual fact you will find people tend to act a bit like sheep, following each other and doing the same thing. The ones that branch out and find a niche often do very well.

This may sound easy, but how do you go about it? Well firstly it is a case of either spotting a gap in the market, a need for a service that is not provided, or generating a gap in the market, providing a product and then convincing people they need it.  The first one is slightly easier to do, but the second one is more exciting!

One way to spot a gap in the market is to look at a good example of the service (or product) you wish to compete with. No matter how good it is, if you think hard enough you will no doubt be able to spot areas in which it could improve. If you can spot several of these and come up with how to improve upon it then you have taken the first step to spotting a gap in the market.

Example – a car wash

Car washes have been around for many years. They provide a fairly simple service of cleaning the outside of your car. You would think this had been done to death, or had it?

I used to take my car to carwashes every few weeks. The car came out quite clean but it always used to worry me what would happen if the rotating brushes caught a bit of grit. It never happened to me, but I have heard some horror stories.

A few years ago we saw brushless carwashes springing up. Now admittedly these wouldn’t clean a filthy car as well as a brush, but they take the fear out of the experience and that is enough to convince some to take their car there instead.

This is a classic example of spotting a problem that doesn’t have a solution, and providing a similar, yet different, alternative.

If the same person who came up with this idea had decided to compete with the same equipment I am sure they would have failed, or at least not succeeded to the extent they did.

Vive la Différence!

Whether you are starting out in business or looking to grow, consider your market and consider your options. Sometimes it is far less effort to step around the giant than to fight it head on.

Have a think about opportunities in the market. What do people struggle with? What do YOU struggle with? If you can answer these questions then you may be able to spot YOUR gap in the market!

Remember, some of the best inventions and products in t he world have come from people not following the herd.

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