Your competitors are not who you think they are

If you search online for how to write a marketing plan, the essential elements of a marketing plan or how to write a business plan online I guarantee, you will always find a section devoted to analyzing your competition.

For brick-and-mortar stores and product manufacturers, it’s super important to know who else is on your street or which brands your product will sit next to on the shelf.

When shopping for a product, a customer can easily compare one list of features to the next. They can line up their options side by side and easily determine which item will best suit their needs.

But when seeking a service provider, things get more fuzzy. Services are based on experiences. It’s difficult for a client to objectively determine (even after they have paid for a service) whether it was the best option for them.

In his book Selling the Invisible, Harry Beckwith says service businesses have three main competitors and if you’re a massage therapist, a financial planner or an architect, two of them are certainly not who you think they are.

When searching for a service provider, clients are deciding between

1. Doing it themselves.

2. Not doing it at all.

3. Others in the same space. 

So when you’re creating your marketing plan, it pays not simply to think about what others are doing, but what barriers you can remove between you and your clients either doing the work themselves or not doing it at all.

You’re selling a relationship, an experience. Not necessarily just features and benefits.

Knowledge is free, time costs extra

In modern marketing, there’s a saying that you should give away your knowledge, but never give away your time.

I encourage all of my clients to publicize their process to potential clients. This means creating service packages and a pricing structure that is clear, honest and transparent with pricing to match and making this information as accessible as possible on their websites.

I also encourage my clients to create helpful, free content based on their audience’s needs.

‘But if I put my process out there, won’t others just copy it?’

‘If I share what I know for free, why would anyone want to buy from me?

Both valid questions. Copycats and lurkers abound online.

And if your process is the sum total of your competitive advantage or if your grasp of theory and concepts is your core competency, you do have something to worry about.

But I suspect you have more to offer than that. Your competitive advantage is your unique world view, the sum of your experiences, the way you show up for your clients, the energy you bring to create great work.

“Do not covet your ideas. Give away everything you know and more will come back to you” - Dan Arden, It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be.