Military target on dollar

There is something to be said about having the “competition” out to get you. It means that you are doing something right. It means that your competition view you as a serious threat. It also means that you need to take action so you can accomplish the following:

  • Keep your position
  • Take advantage of opportunities
  • Leverage your advantages
  • Develop further advantages
  • Enhance your strategic momentum

There is competition in all markets; it intensifies, however, those markets where growth is negative, minimal, or slow, and there is a scarcity of customers and/or customer dollars decrease. When you face competitors who have more financial resources, political clout, or have simply been around longer, the faster your company rises in market visibility and differentiation, the earlier you will have to begin the good fight.

First, view the fact that you are under “attack” as acknowledgement of what you have accomplished. If you are a single person or small business and are going up against well-established, well-funded entities, then kudos to you for getting to where you are. Even if the revenues and profits don’t reflect it, you are a success. Otherwise, no one would be paying attention to you.

The flip side of that success, especially if you don’t have an accumulated war chest, is that you have to have the means (time, financial, strategic, and mental/emotional) to withstand the siege. Competitors’ tactics can include some “unfair” pressures:

  • Exclusionary practices
  • Counter “programming”
  • Branding attacks
  • Pricing pressures (special deals, etc.)
  • Co-opting of intellectual materials (not direct theft of intellectual property, but “me to” positioning)
  • Economic pressures on vendors, allies, and “partners” not to do business with you

Depending on the development stage of your business – startup, new, growth – you may become trapped into thinking you are doing something wrong. Because these tactics may hinder your business plans and sales, you start looking for ways to do things differently. Or you may think what you are offering needs to conform to all the other products or services being offered. While it is good tore-examine your business model, the “product” match to the market, and your other business factors, don’t jump into making wholesale changes or giving up without examining the nature of your marketplace.

You may have the right product or service and be in the wrong niche, market, or geographic location when you are promoting and selling your business. The resistance you are experiencing may be localized protectionism. This isn’t nearly as rare as we would like to think. Many areas are caught in a trap caused by rapid growth or early success led by a few “pioneers”. This trap befalls a business community when the pioneers become “settlers.” They lose their entrepreneurial spirit and “settle” for building their own business and reaping the rewards. These former pioneers put down roots, control the territory, and guard it fiercely from new pioneers and those who would continue the growth of the community.

This behavior may seem illogical and ill-conceived, but it is instinctive to many individuals and businesses. Few entities are prepared to continue to innovate and keep up with “new paths” which can foster continued growth. Instead, they hold on dearly to what they have been able to achieve, then work diligently to ensure no one else will join the mix. Many of these former pioneers become protectionist, simply giving an appearance of support, cooperation, and promotion of growth and new ideas while working behind the scenes to ensure the failure of others.

In reality they select a subset of opportunities where they are able to continue to operate and build their powerbase. They also are able through political and economic clout gathered during the hey day to limit the opportunities (funding, commercialization, promotion) for those not within the selected subset to succeed. This further entrenches their position because it seems to provide evidence that the only route to success is through these individuals, organizations, or companies. They create an economic, political, and business environment so restricted that it is the rare company which can combat the pressures. They are successful because they cause those who are struggling to do one of the following: consume resources too rapidly in order to compete, question the validity of the concept and business model, or find somewhere else to do business.

If your business is a victim of these types of practices, then it is time for a change: challenge the status quo, develop a new strategy to address the real issue, and stop dealing with symptoms. While surrender is always an option, it is not the solution.

Here are ways to combat a “constrained” marketplace:

  • Look outside the immediate target market for others excluded from the bounty
  • Create mechanisms to ally your business with others who can increase your leverage in the marketplace
  • Develop “counter programming” and create opportunities to build the business community and economic base (begin building your clout)
  • Do it better – act with more integrity, be more consistent, provide more assistance, build more relationships, deliver better customer service…
  • Analyze the customer base, practices, and alliances of the “insiders” and seek those left out of that inner circle
  • Focus on your business and do what is best for it – you can’t change the situation directly – you can circumvent many of the obstacles

Finally, do not give up! Nothing worth doing well is easy. You may take longer to build the business, or you may end up moving faster – especially if you look for new markets, look beyond your local geographic area, and seek out the neglected niches.


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