This is a topic most asked by any business coach: Who are your competitors?
Tricky, isn’t it? On one hand, you want to get investors in and need to assure the uniqueness of your product/service; on the other hand, you cannot deny that you were inspired by someone, something, somewhere in your life.
During the peak period, we tend to see an influx in ads appearing on our Facebook News Feed. I honestly cannot deny the trend, especially so in Singapore. Usually, June is where I see the most, followed by national holidays that are commercially-driven like Hari Raya, Chinese New Year and Christmas. It’s also because June to July is our Great Singapore Sale period, and thousands of people all over the world will frequent this small cosmopolitan city to shop!
While this is true in Singapore, the logic can be applied to where you are as well. Look around, and you’ll notice there are peak periods for business ads to appear.
Is this type of competition necessary?
With that surge, the question now comes to this: is this type of competition necessary? My answer is “Yes”. In fact, it is great for your business. For the whole purpose of this Secret File, I’ll focus only on Healthy Competition. I may mention one or two unhealthy versions for your reflection.
Competition is great for you and your business if they are healthy. When backbiting and revenge starts seeping in, you need to stop and reflect. There really is no reason to get angry or start hating your competitors. We’ve witnessed some healthy competition between large corporations like Audi and BMW globally where they engaged in a friendly ad-war.
Competition is good for your business because of the following key reasons: it helps keep you on your feet, makes you realize your limitations, reflect on your business viability and helps you restrategize your business. It may not be easy, but knowing how to remain relevant in the competitive market is the key to any business survival, and ideally, success.
1. Competition keeps you on your feet
There are many times in my entrepreneurial journey where I had an idea but ended up seeing that idea on my competitor’s products or business. It’s normal to start off worried and unhappy, but in any challenge, we must deal with the shock, calmly.
Shocked that your competitors are copying your work? Are you in denial with the whole incident, because you never knew it could happen to you? Been there, done that. After having run multiple businesses, I’ve seen this happen almost all the time. But it’s what I choose to do afterward that matters.
Overcome The Shock of Competition
Usually, after such an episode, two things will happen in my mind
- I too can do this except better!
- It’s their provision set by the Creator and wasn’t mine, to begin with
“I too can do this, except better”
While the first one is positive, it normally sends super sensitive emotions to my whole body. I will start getting nervous and I will feel very annoyed if I cannot concretize that idea. I will have to grab a pen and paper as soon as possible just to brain dump it. I’ve explained at length about this in this Secret File.
Having this mentality is totally acceptable. You have it in you to defend your business, your baby, with your life. This is healthy because it keeps you on your feet to reflect on your current strategies, and take fast actions to be better than what was presented.
“It’s their provision and wasn’t mine, to begin with”
When I think about how it’s my competitor’s turn to shine, I feel relaxed either way. I believe that everything in this world has been decreed to happen, and been designed by the Creator (or universe, whatever it is you believe in) as such. It’s a matter of how willing am I to accept that fate?
If it’s meant to be mine, it will be. If it’s not meant to be mine, I’ll have to accept it. So, I’ll just pack up my bags, put on my shades and move on with life. That’s honestly the best response possible.
2. Competition makes you realize your limitations
When I mentioned that it was their provision by the Creator, I may have come across as sour and seems like I’ve partially given up. Truth is, I have not. Instead, I have come to a realization that the idea which my competitor had was really meant for them. I could have come up with the idea, but I wouldn’t have been able to execute it because of the limitations in my life or business that I have.
Opportunity comes to the prepared mind
A wise man once told me:
“Opportunity comes to the prepared mind. If you’ve missed an opportune moment, it means you weren’t prepared to face it.”
For example, if you’re in the car manufacturing industry: BMW produces a new car line with touch sensitive lights and thumbprint locking system. Your company, let’s say it’s called Affordable Cars, is unable to produce that now or soon because you lack an engineering team; you have had always outsourced engineering of ideas to another company.
With this limitation in your company, you wake up to realize what you lack. At this stage, you will naturally act upon how you can get to where your competitors are.
Dealing with Copycats
Bear in mind not to follow your competitors too much — you might end up with zero creativity. A great example of what is so obviously a copycat is this brand here, which outrightly copies a much more famous brand in Malaysia here. This quote is apt, but I urge all of you to be genuine in your business and be creative.
“If you come into business scared of copycats, business is not for you. We can’t be hypocrites, even we get inspired somewhere. But copycats are just waiting for our next move, so we should be proud. Don’t be mad at them. Provision (Rezeki) has been set by our Creator, so if we contributed a bit to someone else’s provision, isn’t that reward (Pahala) to us? Every brand needs a boost sometimes, even us, and let’s hope we all make it together! The most important thing is for us to innovate and better our brand every single day. Leave the rest to God.”
– Vivy Yusof as seen here
Have you done enough to protect your business?
Weakness in your business foundation is a great way to identify how far your business will go. If your business can easily be copied, perhaps you’ve not protected it enough.
- Ideas are creative proprietary and should be protected. Consider applying for a Registered Trademark of your logo, mark or design.
- Has your business identified a system or technology? Consider patenting that.
- Do you propose ideas to your clients, before confirming the job? Place a clause in the email stating that the copyright solely belongs to you when the proposal is not approved by your client.
Do whatever it takes to protect your business.
If you’re based in Singapore, I highly recommend this trusted law firm. I’ve done a Legal Diagnostic with them, and they’ve helped me identify the weaknesses in my business. I’ve taken their recommendations, and have implemented most of them into my business.
3. Competition makes you see the viability of your business
While it is ideal that every business begins with substantial market research, not all small businesses begin in that manner. Some don’t even know that they need to conduct market research. It’s okay, I didn’t either — but I highly recommend it because I only learned later in my journey how important this step is to avoid you losing money in the first few months of your business.
With competition, you will get to see whether your market is saturated or not. You will also see whether your product or service is worth continuing or otherwise. Most importantly, you’ll see if your product or service is even as unique as you think it is. The usual case is, it’s not that unique. But there are ways you can take to sell the same product as your competitor, but be different.
When I begin my second business with my then boyfriend (now husband), I knew that there were many people selling shawls and hijabs. But I didn’t realize that they were so many!
What we did next was the one that made us realize how viable the business was. We took action to stand out amidst the crowd by producing our own designs. We were one of the earlier ones in Singapore to have designer Hijabs, but we weren’t ready on so many grounds. Others grew and we were thrown out of the league.
That was when we knew that this business wasn’t meant for us because it wasn’t viable enough in the current market.
Don’t feel down when you found that your business is not as viable as you think it is. It’s the next step you must take that will truly make the difference.
4. Competition helps you restructure and strategize your business, where necessary
Now that you know if you’re business is viable or not, it’s time to relook your current strategies and structure. Keep asking yourselves these few questions that have helped me in my business as well:
- Is my business really unique? If not, how can I be unique in this industry?
- Are there any other ways for me to stand out, with my current limitations?
Eg, if you’re short on money, you may want to improve your handmade soap business by providing samples of your current stock at local fairs. Samples can be created in a fancy manner, that helps you stand out from your competitors.
- Do I need to invest in my business now? If so, which aspect and what will I gain from it?
Entrepreneurs are naturally stubborn people. When we see that there’s competition and we may be cannibalized in the industry, we often ignore that. Instead, we confidently tell ourselves that we are different from the rest.
Treat your Business Plan as a Manual
While it is not healthy to keep changing your business structure and plans, it is necessary to keep looking at it every now and then. I spend a full day every month to look at my business plan, tweak and improve where necessary. I’ll also update the milestones I’ve achieved month to month.
With the awareness of the types of competitors we have, it becomes easier to restructure or restrategize if necessary. This helps us be aware of our goals and direction, keeping us at the edge of our game.
Having that said, competition is indeed healthy and great for you and your business. Don’t be afraid of it and don’t shun away from it. Face it boldly — because with competition, there’s definitely space and room for improvements.
Now, it’s your turn. Share with me in the comments below what is one strategy you use to be different from your competitors?