Every so often, I hear of first-time entrepreneurs who either rushed through launches to beat their competition or abandoned their launches altogether because a competitor got the jump on the market.
If your entrepreneurial success depends on someone else, good luck! But if you believe you’re solely responsible for how successful you are in life, then read on.
Competition actually is a good thing. How many times have you heard the stories behind leading brands? Google wasn’t the first search engine. Facebook wasn’t the first social network. There are too many examples to count.
As long as your product isn't simply another "me-too" offering, the market never is too crowded for quality ideas. If you're having competition-related doubts or fears, don't second-guess your product launch. Here are a few compelling reasons you don't need to worry.
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1. Competition validates need.
Your competitors already have paved the way to confirm a fit between product and market. Google didn’t have to educate the market about the need or demand for a search engine. Many players already were in this established -- and successful -- product category.
This enabled Google to focus its efforts on building a product far better than anything offered by existing companies. It set the market on fire. The same held true of Dropbox's launch. The file-sharing space was dominated by the similarly named Box, yet Dropbox created a niche and found its own market segment.
2. Competition fosters innovation.
If there’s one key benefit that competition brings to your business, it’s innovation. It forces you to stay ahead in the game. If you’re the only player in your market, it can be difficult to improve your product. And if you’re working in a crowded market or have several competitors, you can't succeed by doing what everyone else is doing.
Healthy competition encourages change that distinguishes your product from others. You can accomplish this through various means: technology, product changes, new market segments, customer experience or processes.
3. Competition makes you work faster and smarter.
Head-to-head competition keeps you on your toes. As long as you're moving, complacency can't set in. A finger on the pulse of your top competitor's strategy puts you a step ahead. You'll work faster toward product iteration, customer acquisition and feedback-gathering. You'll also be driven to be more decisive as you consider options for your product and business.
Entrepreneurs who have this information at hand tend to make smarter, data-based decisions. They're able to assess market reaction to their product vs. their competitor's. Timely decisions lead to faster execution and assure your product stays at the top of customers' minds.
4. Competition helps put customers first.
Competing for clients requires you to improve the customer-service experience. If you want to attract and keep their attention, you'll have to provide real value. To garner loyal followers, invest in building a great user experience at the product and company levels.
Some companies differentiate themselves from competitors purely on customer service. You could be that company, too. How? Here's a personal example: Last week, I submitted queries to four online course platforms. Only two responded the same day -- one of them, within the hour. Which of the four do you think I'm most likely to sign on with?
5. Competition helps you learn from others’ mistakes.
Know your rivals' products, market positioning and financial status. Learn how they engage users and which tricks and strategies they use. At the same time, do all you can to study which tactics haven't worked for them.
You can apply this learning to the broader market and devise your plan without falling victim to the same pitfalls. Use your competitor's history as a starting point, and you'll find you can adapt and improvise many different aspects of your product and business methods.
Competition definitely isn’t a bad thing. In fact, were I a first-time entrepreneur, I’d rather launch my product in a competitive space than shoulder the burden of creating an entirely new one.