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Updated: Dec 17, 2021

It’s not uncommon to see new business owners focus time, attention and energy on comparing themselves to a competitor down the street. In some cases they know that competitor quite well. Maybe they are former employees. Maybe they’ve had poor experiences with that competitor which has motivated them to start a competitive business. Regardless of the reason, it’s the obvious competitor that most new businesses see as their primary target.

We identify these as your “primary” competitors, and they are certainly businesses you need to be mindful of when developing sales, marketing and social media strategies. You are all competing for the same customer’s attention. The problem most new businesses fall into, is that they stop at their “primary” competition and look no further.

In truth, your “secondary” competition can be just as important and impactful to your overall success. Not recognizing who your “secondary” competition are and what they bring to their potential customers can be a huge mistake. As an example, if you felt like a fast-food cheeseburger, you’d have lots of choices. McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s and any other restaurant that sells burgers could all be in running for your cheeseburger purchasing dollars. These would all be considered “primary” competitors.

However, if I was simply hungry and wasn’t sure what I wanted, I could consider all of my options and look at a bunch of other fast food restaurants. Swiss Chalet, Subway, Taco Bell or ANY other non-fast-food burger restaurant would be an option for me as well. These are all “secondary” competition to the burger restaurants.

As the owner of a fast-food burger restaurant, if all I ever considered was the other fast-food burger competitors, I would be ignoring or omitting an entire segment of “secondary” competitors that stand to attract customers away from me. Put another way, sometimes it isn’t just an apples for apples comparison. Just because you’re selling apples doesn’t mean a potential customer isn’t also considering pears, oranges or cherries instead. You certainly need to be aware of what other apple seller’s offer – but also include those selling pears, oranges and cherries in your analysis to make sure you know what makes them appealing or competitive in the eyes of the same customer you are all vying for.

Remember that just because YOU think you are the best choice in your field, your customers may not always see it that way. In order to properly research, develop and implement a compelling product and customer experience, you need to consider BOTH primary and secondary competitors moving forward in order to create a unique business that stands out in a crowd.

A big part of small business success is about knowing who else has access to your potential clients, and doing everything better than them. Casting a wide enough net, and really knowing and understanding your competition is essential.

*Shawn is a lifelong Oxford County resident with a strong business ownership and communications background. As the former owner of a long-standing Insurance Brokerage in Woodstock, Shawn is able to provide practical insights into business risk, day-to-operations, staffing and marketing and sales strategies to clients interested in business start-up or growth. Shawn is a strong business coach and mentor who excels at working with clients one-on-one or when facilitating workshops that look to provide entrepreneurs with the necessary skills they need to run a successful business. He believes in building entrepreneurial networks, sharing our collective business knowledge and in finding ways for our clients to work together in Woodstock, Oxford County and beyond.

You can reach out to Shawn by emailing:

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