How to Flatten Your Competition

flatten your competition

Every business, big and small, has competitors, and we all want to beat them.  But what if you didn’t have to?  What if you could learn how to flatten your competition; to even make them irrelevant? That way, it wouldn’t matter what they did.

Here’s how competition usually works.  Each year, the big TV networks compete with each other to get higher ratings during “sweep” periods. They use “stunt-hosting” to pull in more viewers to their respective morning news shows.  They’re fighting over the claim to “most popular” show.

Does any of this really matter to their viewers?  Is the show more interesting? Has all that effort, and money spent really gained them anything (other than bragging rights)?

Carmakers spend millions of dollars each year on ads, trying to outsell each other.

Do the cars and trucks last longer?  Or get better mileage? Do their customers (and non-customers who are bombarded with all these ads), feel better about the companies?  It’s old-fashioned interruption marketing — lots of money spent, plenty of annoyed viewers, and not much human connection.

How to Flatten Your Competition

Instead of trying to beat the competition, why not ignore them entirely.  Do something they can’t (or won’t do). Offering something unique, or a solution that solves a tough problem can help you stand out from everyone else.  If you’re known for a speciality, clients will seek you out.

For example, circus attendance is declining, but Cirque de Soleil is thriving. Why? Because they ignored the traditional circus audience of children and went after adults and corporate clients instead.  Their shows are definitely not for children, and they charge much higher prices than traditional circuses.  Since there is no other “adult” circus, they have no competitors to worry about.

Make a You-Shaped Hole

Remember watching Bugs Bunny cartoons?  Every time Bugs went through a wall or a solid object, he left a Bugs-shaped hole.  Take a tip from Bugs (and Cirque de Soleil) and create something that’s unique to you.

Be the writer who creates annual reports that look like infographics.  They’re easier to read, more fun, and remarkable.

Or, be the photographer who travels the world solely on airline mileage points, and then teach other people how to do the same thing.

Do something unique, over the top, or simply remarkable (how about late-night fresh chocolate chip cookie delivery?), and your competition won’t matter.  They’ll simply be irrelevant.

Master One Thing

Develop expert knowledge on a particular subject that people will pay to learn or have done.  Pick something that you care about, that you could talk about all day.  Gary Vaynerchuk loves wine, and found a way to talk about it that was obvious (in retrospect) but unique.  He never mentions “nose” or “finish” or other technical wine terms, he talks about wine in ordinary language that consumers use (not the language of wine experts).

There is a woman who has a coaching practice focused solely on helping pet sitters to grow their businesses.  She helps pets sitters only, not babysitters, not plumbers, not web developers, just pet sitters.  She has mastered that one service for a particular group of people.

Become a Partner, Not a Vendor

Another way to do this is to become an essential partner with your clients, rather than just a vendor.

If you help them with their business strategy, listen carefully when they talk to you, and above all, be helpful, they will start to regard you as a key part of their business success, rather than another expense.

If you think they’re making a mistake, tell them, even if it costs you money.  For instance, I had a client who wanted to do a large mailing from a list he had accumulated over time.  I would have made money writing the sales letters, but it was a mistake.  The list was no good and the mailing would have wasted his money.

I talked him out of it. Yes, I lost that particular project, but I gained more trust from my client.  And, it was worth it to both of us.

The competition didn’t matter much after that.  I was his trusted advisor.