Another Expert Is Doing What You Want to Do… Now What?

So you’ve decided to market and monetize your know-how. Congratulations. But wait, what’s this? Some other expert is already doing what you’re doing. Unbelievable. In one fell-swoop you lose the wind from your sails and – crestfallen – you tell yourself, “I’m too late”, “This won’t work now” or “How can I compete with that?” This is a very common complaint and almost everyone reacts in the wrong way. Competition doesn’t really exist – and if it did, it would be a good thing – all will become clear, we promise.

A misplaced value on being first

Some reasons why you quit when you learn someone else is doing what you want to do:

  1. You mistakenly believe that in order to succeed in business you must be a pioneer – the first to survey unchartered land – as though that was the sole, key ingredient of commercial success.
  2. You’ve been led to believe – probably by non-entrepreneurs and people less qualified than you – that exclusivity/originality are the most important aspects of your business.
  3. You mistake competition as a sign you’ve missed the boat and zero competition as an opportunity – when the opposite is true.
  4. You place too much value on the idea and not enough on the value of the execution.

Change the way you look at competition

The next time you have an idea and someone is already doing it, we want you to reframe your thoughts as follows:

  1. There is no such thing as “competition”. Yes, someone can be doing what you plan to do but they are not your competitors. They are not you: they won’t make the same choices as you; they won’t execute their plan the same way as you; they won’t run their business the way you run yours; they do not have your personality. Who you are is enough to differentiate your service.
         Think about it: why do you like one music artist but not another? They’re both creating music, aren’t they? Obviously the answer is because you like the work of one artist more; you relate more to them; you like the way they’ve constructed their songs; you appreciate the artistic choices they made; they “speak to you” more. There are lots of “same things” out there (e.g. music, art, books, films, brands, sports teams…) yet they’re different enough to attract their own following. It’s the same with you and your expertise. Other experts may be doing what you plan to do but what you bring makes all the difference.
         We have not done so here, but we suggest you see competition in inverted commas from now on.
  2. Competition validates the market. If there’s already competition in the market it means there’s money to be made. No one is advising you pick a fight with a 600lb gorilla like Amazon but another expert doing what you’re doing does not have the market sewn up. There’s plenty of room for you to make money – otherwise there could only ever be two or three players in any industry and that’s clearly not the case. Markets are bigger than you realise and that’s before you consider specialising in a niche, for example.
  3. What you do is not as important as how you do it. The value of your business is not your idea. Even if you came up with an original idea, so what? It can be copied by competitors and new entrants into the market the very next day. What happens to your precious originality then? Similarly, if someone else is doing what you want to do, who cares? You can join them. Entrepreneur Derek Sivers points out “ideas are just a multiplier of execution“. There was a time when we would fret over protecting our position but we quickly realised the real protection lay in the huge amount of work we did in order to succeed, i.e. the execution. That’s where the real value lies.
  4. It’s an excuse. Quitting every time you find out someone else is already in the market is an excuse. The fact is, there is no valuable business that does not already have some form of competitionOn a subconscious level, you are engaging in a merry-go-round of idea-research-quit-idea-research-quit… Notice what’s missing? Action. Taking action is scary because it requires you to leave your comfort zone and there’s no guarantee of success. So you fool yourself that you are being productive by having all these great ideas that you never pursue for “good reasons”. Make a choice and take action.
  5. “Winners focus on winning, losers focus on winners”. We like this quote from the gregarious MMA fighter, Conor McGregor. It’s easy to be awed by what others are doing when you should really be focused entirely on what you’re trying to achieve. We all have different skills, different opportunities, different journeys to make. You are unlikely to achieve your dreams if you’re always watching what other people are doing and reacting instead of creating. For this reason, we advise against becoming a guru-junkie, following the success of others instead of working on your own.
  6. Let your competitors make mistakes for you. Don’t assume the first-mover has the odds in their favour – quite the opposite, in fact:
    – First movers – 47% failure rate
    – Fast followers – 8% failure rate
    (P. N. Golder and G. J. Tellis. 1993. “Pioneer Advantage: Marketing Logic or Marketing Legend?” Journal of Marketing Research, 30(2):158–170.)
         If you must obsess over the competition, at least be constructive. What you can learn from them?:
    – what are they doing well?
    – what do they do poorly that you can improve on?
    – what does their website look like?, i.e. not just aesthetics but does it do good job of selling their services?
    –  what do you do/can do that they don’t?
  7. You can only gain; the existing competition loses. Consider this: Expert A has 100% of the market. You decide to offer the same service as Expert A. Immediately, you have a chance of taking a chunk of Expert A’s business. All things being equal, the maths is in your favour. The only person who can lose in this scenario is Expert A. Now factor in how you differentiate your offers based on quality, service, the results you deliver and customer experience. You automatically have a chance to succeed.

Takeaway points

  1. Competition is an illusion. There are lots of different songs, lots of different singers. From now on, see competition in inverted commas.
  2. Competition validates the market. If there is no competition, that’s probably a bad sign.
  3. Stop obsessing about what other people are doing and concentrate on creating your own success. We’re all on different journeys.

Action steps

  1. Look at your main competition. List all the ways you are different, i.e the customers you serve; the services you offer; your style/personality; the results you promise; the products you offer. You’ll quickly find you’re different enough to not have to worry about what they’re doing.
  2. How can you do it better than the competition? Learn to build a better website (specifically designed to sell your know-how); what do they badly that you can improve on? What are your strengths? What important value can you offer the target audience that the competition is not delivering?
  3. Finally (and ideally) learn to let go of what the competition is doing. You have no control over what they will do, only what you will do. Don’t waste value time and effort reacting. Get busy creating something valuable yourself. Make your own path in the industry.

Photo credit: Marty Hadding via / CC BY-NC 2.0

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