“We Don’t Focus on Our Competition…”

 In All

When I hear rural businesses utter these words I know they are living in La La Land.

Your potential customers don’t ignore your competition so why would you?

Saying you don’t focus on your competition is naïve, or worse arrogant as we all know what happens when businesses get arrogant: Blockbuster, Nokia or Kodak.

To give people credit when they say they don’t focus on their competition what I think they mean to say when they make these absolute statements is that they don’t want to get distracted.

They want to stay focused, “stay in their own lane” or “run their own race.”

That’s perfectly fine, except for the fact that you are in a race.

You are competing whether you like it or not.

Sometimes the biggest competitor you face is yourself or your own business and the way you do – or don’t do – things.

They always say “iron sharpens iron” and I reckon that’s a great saying.

Your competition keep you sharp and on your toes.

It works for professional athletes so it will for you.

They study their opposition and try to work out what their gameplan is. They also observe and record the moves of individual players. They build bios and dossiers on their competition because they know they way to beat them is to know them inside out.

Your rural business always needs to keep an eye on your competition. You must stay vigilant, not arrogant.

Every category will have a minimum of 5 players where number one is a case of “winner takes all.” They will command on average 60% of all sales, brand 2 takes 20% of sales, brand 2 10% and the rest share the slender slices – or crumbs – of pie.

Jack Ries and Al Trout call it the Law Of The Ladder in their brilliant book “The 22 Irrefutable Laws of Marketing”.

Take Zoom for example. Streets ahead and used by 70% of podcasters, Riverside FM is next with only 12% then StreamYard at 7% and Zencastr at 2% (courtesy of the very clever Tom Schwabb and his Team at @Interview Valet)

Peter Thiel (founding investor of Facebook and PayPal) said in his book Zero To One that it’s dumb to have competitors because competitors destroy markets. He talks about the concept of Creative Monoploists instead:

Creative monopolists give customers more choices by adding entirely new categories of abundance to the world. Creative monopolies aren’t just good for the rest of society; they’re powerful engines for making it better.Whilst a purist view, it’s a powerful one and business model of category design to consider.

So competition can be argued to be good or bad for your rural business.

Which do you choose?

I chose the fact that competition will make my business better.

Customers like competition and that’s why they appoint competition watchdogs or Ombudsman.

Consumers are wary of oligarchies or duopolies and we know farmers love choice because it gives them more agency and autonomy.

They don’t like to be controlled because there is so much they can’t control like weather, FX, climate, trade tariffs, floods, disease, or supply chains.

So my advice is to focus on your competition. Or as Thiel says create a category of one and you won’t need to worry.

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