Has this ever happened to you?
You’re working hard, getting all you can out of your design business. Your clients are happy, you’ve got steady work, and the cash-flow is solid.
Then, suddenly, from seemingly out of nowhere, a new competitor shows up.
All of a sudden, it seems like their advertising is everywhere. Everyone’s talking about them. Everyone is checking out their work, trying to gauge if they’re a good business partner.
And you can tell.
So what should you do when a new competitor shows up on the scene?
Here’s what I do:
1. Accept that competition is healthy and needed for your business to thrive
The first fear every entrepreneur has about competition is that they will get squeezed out.
The truth is (usually) competition in the marketplace is really good for business.
More competition means more comparison. Customers compare prices, quality of work, customer service, turnaround, etc. If you can find a place to shine and really stand out from the others, competition can really help you grow.
Competition also keeps you on the top of your own game.
It’s easy to get complacent, slip on the details, phone it in now and again, or simply take things for granted.
But when you’re fighting for every client you’ve got…when you’re competing for cash-flow each day…when you business is on the line… that’s when you do your best work.
Competition forces you to step up your game. And that’s always good for business.
2. Assess the situation
Next, before you freak out to much about new competition on the scene, it’s important to assess the situation with a solid mindset.
Ask yourself questions like:
Is this competitor really a threat to my business? In what ways?
Will my current clients be interested in working with my new competitor? Why or why not?
Is my competitor better than I am at what I claim to do best?
Does my competitor fill the same space in the marketplace that I do?
Be asking these sorts of questions, it’s easier to get a feel for how much concern and worry you should give to the new competition.
If they aren’t planning to occupy the same space as you (you build wordpress sites and they design logos) then you don’t have anything to worry about.
If they plan to occupy the same space as you, but their work is sub-par, you still have no need to worry.
But if they seem to be as good or better than you at what you claim to do best – the crux of your entire business – then it’s time to step up your game and keep them from nudging you out.
Here are a few things you can do once you’re sure your new competition may actually be a threat to your business.
3. Meet them in person and get to know them
This might seem like a strange concept.
Why would you want to meet your competition, get to know them, and risk (gasp) actually liking them?
You’ve heard the popular catchphrase, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer,” right? Well, this is the business version of that theory.
Keep your competition close. Networking with people who may be your toughest competition can actually turn out to be beneficial in a lot of ways. For example:
• You could supplement each others’ creative services. If they’re better at logos and you’re better at typography, strike a deal and work together to create the best customer experience for your clients. More on that here.
• You could learn from them and find ways to tighten up or improve your own business. More on that in the next section (4).
• You could synergize and make something greater than either of you could make on your own. Maybe you team up to advertise services and get a better advertising rate, etc.
• You could point clients their way while they point clients your way. If they come by a client who doesn’t need a logo (their strength), but needs a nice wordpress theme (your strength), work out a commission or a trade. And vice versa. If you’ve got a potential client who needs a logo, send them on over and let your competition do the best work possible. (More on this in section 5.)
There are lots of ways you can benefit from getting to know your competition. If they’ll give you the time of day (and they probably will if you’ve been on the scene for long) then take some time to meet them in person.
4. Learn from them
In meeting with your competition and studying their work, take time to learn from them.
Chances are, they’re at least doing a few small things better than you.
And it’s quite possible they’re doing a lot of things better than you.
So instead of sitting around, worrying about how they may or may not steal your business, be humble enough to learn.
Swallow your pride, admit that they have some great ideas when it comes to marketing their business, providing quality service, or managing their projects, and adopt things that you think can really improve your business.
When you take the best you have to offer and pair it with the best your competition has to offer, you come out on top. (tweetable)
5. See if there’s a partnership opportunity
As I eluded to in section 3, looking for partnership opportunities is always a great way to build your business.
Turning potential competitors into strong allies is the easiest way to sleep soundly at night. And chances are, there’s plenty of business to go around for the both of you (and more).
There are a few ways you could try to partner with a potential competitor:
• Supplement services
• Trade clients
• Collaborate on projects
• Cooperate on advertising and marketing
• Watch out for each other (double-team the less-friendly competition)
• Share office space and other resources
What did I leave out? Let me know in the comments.
6. Beat them at their own game
As a last resort, if you can’t seem to work with them, compromise, or find a way to help each other out mutually, then the only option you’ve got left is to beat them at their own game.
This isn’t a road I highly recommend since you can waste a lot of time worrying about your competition instead of just building your own business.
But in any case, it’s always an option. Outsmart them. Outwork them. Or out-hustle them.
7. Play to your strengths
Last, but not least, play to your strengths.
In a world where “everyone is a designer,” you must find a way to stand out.
And even if there’s not huge competition on the scene and your business isn’t threatened, it’s still smart to play to your strengths.
The guy is pretty talented.
Not the best designer in the whole wide world (he’ll even admit that), but definitely talented. And the guy plays to his strengths.
What’s his biggest strength? Messaging.
He knows that the secret to top-notch web design is not in which social buttons you have or how many seconds until your popup is activated, but that the power is in the messaging.
That includes copy, design, and the whole direction of the site.
That’s Chase’s strength.
And he plays to it big time. Subsequently, he rocks his particular market.
You can do the same. Figure out what your strengths are. Play to them. Use them to your advantage. Always refer to them. Become known for them. They are your most important asset.
And if you play to your strengths, you likely won’t ever even have to worry about competition.
What did I leave out?
Hoe do you handle competition that threatens your creative business? Leave a comment on this post and let’s talk about it!