As entrepreneurs, it’s in our DNA to see every problem as a challenge. It presents an opportunity to build a business around solving the problem. It’s why I get so excited and energized talking to entrepreneurs about their businesses.
However, after hearing startups discuss their new ideas or awesome business plans, I always ask the same question: Who else is in the space? The answers are generally the same: "We are unique, one of a kind and have zero competitors. That’s why it’s so great!"
You couldn’t be more wrong.
Having zero competition isn’t necessarily a good thing, especially when there’s millions of entrepreneurs around the world focused on sniffing out potential business opportunities. If your startup is solving such a widespread problem, why aren’t others doing the same thing? Having an enemy is a good thing, and the bigger, the better!
Take Periscope and Meerkat for example. These two apps have recently exploded on the scene, providing a one-touch solution to live stream on the go from mobile devices. The apps debuted at roughly the same time, and now they’re battling to be the biggest and baddest in the industry.
There’s a reason every great business has an enemy to take down, just like every great fairy tale has a villain: it makes for a great story for consumers to buy into. Apple and Uber, for example, both cast themselves against something each company felt wasn’t working: PCs and cabs, respectively.
Enemies are good for business for a few specific reasons:
Just like competition, tension is good for business. It brings out the things people don’t want to talk about and forces the acknowledgement of any elephants in the room. When you’re faced with a huge breakthrough or the wildly successful marketing campaign your competitors just launched, you have three options: adapt, change or die.
Tension paves the way for creative thinking, which can lead to major market breakthroughs. I love causing tension within my own businesses. It creates a competitive mindset amongst my team members to one-up each other.
If you’re the only business in your field or industry, chances are you’re more likely to get comfortable and complacent. Once that happens, innovation slows down to a crawl, and that can spell trouble or even death for a company.
When you’ve got competition, you’re constantly looking at how to one-up them and to stay ahead of them at every turn. This type of innovative racing can propel an industry forward and keep your business seen as the thought leaders driving the innovation.
3. Customer service
Store A and Store B provide the same exact products and are located on the same street. However, Store A has a noticeably higher amount of foot traffic coming into the store. Why? It understands that to succeed, the store has to be 100 percent better than its competition at everything else, including customer service.
Great customer service can be the driving factor to a business, with everything from how customers are greeted when they enter the store to how their checkout is handled. Strive to be not only the biggest in your industry, but also with customer service.
If you’re the only company in your market, are you really solving a problem, or are you just creating noise? It’s a legitimate question I wish more startup teams would ask themselves. The more competition in your industry, the better consumers view the products overall.
Fitbit is a perfect example. When the popularity of wearable fitness trackers started to rise, Fitbit was right there. Sure, there were early adopters to Fitbit, but no one knew what the company was. When competition such as Nike entered the arena, Fitbit’s credibility rose immensely, helping it solidify dominance in the field.
It’s one thing to be first to market -- it’s another to be the only in your market.
With hundreds to even millions of potential customers, competition in your industry allows you to focus on the right customer for your business. Think of it like this: There was a time I would check my mail and there would be a stack of dog-food and diaper coupons.
At the time, I didn’t have a granddaughter and I had horses, not dogs. The companies spent thousands on a blind mass-mailing campaign that not only annoyed me but also turned me off to them completely. They lost a potential customer without even knowing it.
Rather than spending an obscene amount in marketing to reach a broad audience, many of whom may not have a need for your business, you can focus your messaging on just the right target audience. Understanding whom your audience is and creating custom messages for them is a surefire way to build brand loyalty.
You should have the biggest, baddest enemy you can imagine in your space, because you want to be the biggest and baddest in that space. When things happen (like they invariably do in business), don’t get mad or even. Just get ahead, especially when it comes to your enemies.