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Berkonomics

Be careful how you define your competition.

Professional investors laugh when they hear an entrepreneur state, “We have no competition.”  That statement has killed more investment deals than almost any other.  It is a failed litmus test for the entrepreneur, even if the plan is for a totally new device or service that could take the world by storm.  Well, come to think of it, this is especially true in such an instance.

The statement shows a lack of research or previous thinking that is a red flag for investors.  Whether the entrepreneur has not been able to find companies doing “something like” the plan, or s/he has not considered the most obvious killer of new ideas – doing nothing, it is a faux pas that should never be allowed to happen.

Doing nothing is the main competitor for most products and services, whether a compelling new idea or a seasoned product long proven to be effective.   Remember that the buyer must commit resources, money and time, toward the purchase of your product, and even if the product repays its investment in a few months, there may be issues you know nothing about that make no decision the right decision for this and perhaps many buyers.

[Email readers, continue here…]  Consider the state of the economy. Perhaps buyers cannot obtain attractive financing in the current market.  Maybe there is advance knowledge of new technologies around the corner that makes any decision today a risky one.  It could be that a larger competitor has met with its customers, promising to extend its product line into this very niche.  There are thousands of variants of the theme, where no decision is the right decision.

So, do your homework especially well by putting yourself into the minds of your potential customers.  Widen your search to include companies with products peripheral to yours, where extension of their product would seem logical, especially if you plan to be successful early in making sales into their market.  If you are raising funds, list “do nothing” as a viable competitor in your slide deck.  If you are training your sales staff, work especially hard on responding to emotional and factual counters to a final close of a sale.  Practice overcoming the potential objection long before standing in front of investors, customers or even your board.  After all, fooling yourself should never be an option.

  • Michael O'Daniel

    I could agree 100% with this point of view in a B2B setting, but how about when launching a new B2C product or service? Certainly potential customers have the option not to buy (do nothing), but what other factors might be at work there that are not present in B2B?

  • Dave,
    This was an eye opening perspective on evaluating competition. Thanks.

    Greg

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