Realizing you have a competitor out there doing something similar to you can feel like the kiss of death the second you let it consume you. Usually it starts with a general Google search or some casual paroozing online and all of a sudden, you stumble upon another company selling a similar product in a similar market.
This is when the panic usually sets in...
"Wait, that’s pretty much what I’m doing.”
“We have the exact same idea except they started 2 years before me.”
“They have 5,000 Facebook followers and I have none!"
For some reason, when we are in the process of working on our own product or our own business, we convince ourselves that if someone else is doing it too (or worse, if they’ve started before us) then it’s a clear, blatant sign that we should give up now and call it quits.
If that were true…
- Alex and Ani jewelry wouldn’t have blazed through the jewelry market turning their business into a billion-dollar brand because “so many other companies were already making bangles!”
- S’well Bottle founder, Sarah Kauss, would have never hit $100 million in revenue because the idea of starting a reusable water bottle company would be nuts when her competition was years (if not decades) ahead of her.
Here’s what you have to remember...
You don’t need the whole pie.
Just a piece of the market is enough to build a wildly sustainable (and profitable) business in your industry.
And competition can be a really great thing for you.
It validates that there is already demand for your product.
If someone is out there already selling something similar, they’ve put in the legwork to prove that there actually is a customer who wants to buy that product.
It shows you how your target customer expects to see your product merchandised and/or priced.
You may end up taking a totally different approach, but at the very least you can see what your customer is used to paying when they shop from your competitor. This will help you narrow your thoughts when you first begin your journey with questions like, “what should my retail prices be?” …. “which retailers would be interested in this type of product?”
Competition segments the market into “tribes”.
Just because there is someone out there with a similar idea doesn’t mean you’re going to target the same customer! To illustrate: think about the woman who buys leggings from Lululemon. She’s most likely identifying with a “yoga” or “athleisure” message. Now think about the woman who buys leggings from Under Armour. She is most likely looking for “performance” features or “athletic” branding. Despite selling almost identical products in a very crowded space, both brands are able to attract their own customer for different reasons.
No matter what industry you are in, there is always going to be competition.
Certain markets will always be more saturated than others, but it’s important to understand that only YOU can deliver a product in the unique, different way that YOU do it.
Working with startups, we’ve come to see just how insecure business owners can get when they fall down a rabbit hole watching, stalking, or researching their competition. Don’t let this panic erode your focus and persistence. Use it to validate your market, allow it to hone you in further on your customer, and keep on.