Boy, if we only had a nickel for every time we asked a startup CEO about his competition and heard: “Really, no one. No one does what we do. We’re a breakthrough category – you know, like Google.”
Okay, we’ll grant you your big vision. Where would we all be without big vision? In the dark ages. In caves. In the name of evolution, someone among us has to think big.
But while you are busy ensuring that your offering truly is breakthrough, your new savvy sales VP will say the first order of business is to find an enemy. If you don’t define your competitive set while you craft your positioning, it’ll get defined for you when your sales team hits the streets. Better to be in front of it.
No matter how game changing your breakthough brand may be, we all still must compete in the marketplace, yes? Even if no one does what you do, with whom must you compete in order to penetrate the over-crowded awareness of your targeted customer? Who else will already be in the consideration set when you ask to be included?
If you aren’t comparing yourself thoroughly to everything remotely close to your offering, your customers are. You should know more than they do, not less. Your savvy sales VP knows that.
The slots for awareness, consideration and decisive action in the minds of the consumer are finite. As are the dollars in our pockets. We are careful about how we spend them. Your visionary value prop may very well follow in the footsteps of the automobile and the telephone, but if you want to ramp up sales quickly, skip the headache of reacting to the marketplace when it asks, “Why you instead of them?” Because it will.
The marketplace will accept you more readily if it is offered a convenient way to fit you in to an existing perceptual set. Be proactive. Anticipate the expectations of your marketplace. Know what your customers need to know about you and make it easy for them to know.