Find That Unique Niche in the Marketplace

by R. Kay Green, Ph.D.

It is no secret that competition today has become increasingly intense. In fact, in today’s highly competitive marketplace, the competition is so deadly fierce that the best and the brightest don’t always succeed. Sometimes the best and brightest are annihilated by the competitors in the industry.

In situations from starting a business or building a brand to trying to get that promotion at work, competition can do a couple of things. First, it can provide a false sense of what the industry is. That is, when trying to determine market needs, health and trends by studying everything the competition is doing, how can a business owner possibly expect to get an accurate picture about anything? It’s not industry truth that’s being studied; it’s the competition’s propaganda. There is no company that would portray itself in a negative light on its website or in its marketing materials. So a businessperson conducting research into the health and strategies of competitors might be getting a picture that’s healthier than reality; gauging oneself against one’s competitors, it’s difficult to get a realistic picture of what the market is really about.

How avoid these concerns? Make the competition irrelevant. A company can open up new — and uncontested — market space by focusing on improving its own value to both customers and itself. In considering these factors, the better strategy is for a company to form and maintain its own unique standards and determine what it will and won’t do. In essence, the best approach is to stop thinking about simply trying to beat the competition and start thinking about enhancing oneself, one’s business and one’s brand.

Redirect the business’s focus. The goal here is not to figure out how to fit into an established market. It’s about creating an environment in which a business is the only competitor, an environment in which its owner is the go-to person for the product or service. In essence, one should start thinking about oneself as the best and brightest. A businessperson who focuses inward will be much more likely to become the next innovator who changes the market — and who wouldn’t want to be that next innovator?

For an entrepreneur, redirecting the focus means ignoring a competitor’s predefined rules and values and starting to broaden the understanding of what one’s value is. Instead of worrying about what other people bring to the table for the customer, worry about what one brings to the table oneself. Then, with strengths and unique attributes clearly defined, one can begin to look at ways to accentuate them for prospective customers.

For the traditional work environment, the task is to do things to make oneself more authentic. If competing with someone else, it’s necessary only to be better than that person. Competing with oneself, however, means trying to improve holistically. The latter leads to more positive momentum and longer-term personal gain.

Build a culture of improvement. The best way to break free from the bonds of one’s natural competitive nature is to concentrate all energy on improving oneself. No matter what an entrepreneur has done or gained, it’s necessary to keep looking for ways to get better. One can’t just rest on accomplishments. An entrepreneur has to get up, keep moving and keep improving!

Be okay with “no.” To truly ignore what the competition is doing, accept the fact that sometimes the competition will just be a better fit for certain people. A businessperson has to understand that “no’s” are natural.

Don’t compete and defeat. The thing about business is that customers are going to go with their preference, no matter what. A business owner who can figure out ways to bridge gaps with the competition — and even go so far as to do the unthinkable and work with the competition — might find the business in a better position to reach more customers than it ever could before. The same is true for the traditional work environment. Instead of trying to beat a competitor for that promotion, working with him or her might improve one’s chances of getting noticed by the managers who do the hiring.

Focus on the bigger picture. The cookie-cutter approach doesn’t work for everything. What worked in the old environment might not necessarily work in the new. The goal in focusing on the bigger picture should be to figure out how authentic strengths and values might apply to a market that is far larger and much less refined than the one left behind. Don’t be afraid to do things differently. Don’t be afraid to be oneself. Don’t be afraid to accept clients from backgrounds never before even anticipated.

Declare independence. The most promising factor that lies at the center of all this is independence. One is not just positioning oneself advantageously in the marketplace; one is freeing oneself from the bonds of competition and rules. Free from the same rules as everyone else, don’t be afraid to shake it up. Innovate wherever possible. Project unique value onto the world. Never stop learning, growing, adapting and evolving.

The bottom line is, in order to succeed (in order to attract customers; in order to land that big promotion), you should always concentrate on delivering value. Always. The task here is, while your competitors continue to spend all their time and effort trying to figure out how to be better than you, to figure out how to maximize the value you bring to the table. Your competitor will be worried about your business’s performance; you will be worried only about how to better yourself. In the end, it will be this factor above all others — your concentration on yourself and the value you have to offer — that will lead to success.

R. Kay Green, Ph.D., is president and CEO of RKG Marketing Solutions, a professor of marketing and author of the new book I’ve Been Called the B* Word… Now What Do I Do? 13 Rules for the New-Age Professional Woman.

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