Blue ocean markets are rare. Even if you have the most innovative product since the whoopee cushion, odds are you have at least one competitor, either direct or indirect. So for the sake of discussion, let’s assume that your startup will be facing competition (because it will). How do you take on your major competitors and get noticed?
Find a Problem
Contrary to what you learned in business school, it’s not always best to be the first to market. Sometimes, the first to market is also the first to be picked apart and the first to be made irrelevant. So find a way to do something better. If you take the time to carefully analyze your competitor, you can most likely find a weakness. One good way to do this is to talk with your competitor’s customers. Get out on the street and talk with them. Find out what they love and don’t love about your competitor’s product or service. Once you uncover the one big thing they don’t love, you’ve found your opportunity.
Fix the Problem
Capitalize on this weakness by diversifying your business. Position yourself to be the bandage for their wound. My company, Netcars.com, recognized that every other used car portal was scaring away sellers by charging listing fees up front. So, by creating a completely unique pay-per-click billing model, not tying car dealers into contracts and not asking for any up-front fees we removed the risk associated for our clients to “give us a go” and in turn we’ve disrupted the automotive industry. Rather than isolating our suppliers like most of the market, we joined their team. The saying holds true: “When everyone else goes right, go left.”
A weakness is a weakness, no matter how small it might be. Once you’ve figured out what your competitor’s lacking and found a way for your business to fill the void, make it known. Be vocal. Use your marketing skills to point out the unmet need and explain how your product or service fills that need. You don’t have to be hostile, just effective. Also, don’t forget that people care what other people think about them, so take a social approach when possible. For example, what are your neighbors going to think if your grass dies because of your sub-par fertilizer? You can also create a fear scenario. For the used car industry it might be, “What if I pay to list my car, but it never sells?” Then, utilize guerilla marketing strategies to stand out and be unique.
Don’t be scared of size. You don’t necessarily need to bring down your competitor, you just need to fill a niche by doing something better. Do it right, and your competitor’s customers will become your customers.
Louis Rix has over 10 years of online marketing experience, and currently serves as Cofounder of http://www.carfinance247.co.uk.