Many business owners do not like the idea that they have competitors. They are quick to suggest that what they offer is unique and don’t really have opposition.

This approach ignores a law of commerce: if you have customers, you also have competitors. It’s like “what goes up, must come down”. It’s how things are, and it impacts you whether you like it or not. If you don’t know who your competitors are, you are exposed at the flanks.

Of course, the decision on who your competitors are and how much they matter is out of your hands. The customer decides on that. It is for them to compare you with whomever they want to and in whichever way.

The problem is that the customer has a habit of making strange comparisons. They don’t necessarily compare apples with apples. If they’re hungry, they’ll compare an apple with a McDonalds burger. This analogy holds true for a business customer too. The scary implication is that you may not even know who you are up against!

I’ll say it again:

  • If you have customers, you also have competitors.
  • If you do not know who your competitors are, you are exposed at the flanks.
  • It is not for you to choose your competitors. Your customers do.

Where does this all leave us?

You’ve got to go and speak to your customer, again, and ask them who they compare you with and what they compare you on?

I have recently engaged in a fascinating exercise with a business owner who is going to anonymously approach his competitors, including his own business, with a typical customer problem and see who impresses him most. He’ll report back in two weeks’ time. This could be a valuable exercise for any business owner, once you know who the competition is!

Do you know who your customer compares you with? Do you know who your competitor is?