The online marketing world changes on a day to day basis. Advertising platforms come and go. Big name players rise and fall. It’s just one of those things that veterans of the game come to accept.
You know what never changes though? The problems and questions raised by newcomers to the business:
-How do I choose a niche?
-How do I monetize a website?
-Should I use [insert marketing technique here]?
-How do I get traffic?
-How do I build trust with my audience?
All are valid questions. The question on niche selection is the most important though. Forums and comment sections the world over are filled with questions about niche selection, and you readers have questions as well. There is much that needs to be said on the topic; but today’s conversation is going to focus on competition. It is (after passion/interest) THE biggest factor in choosing a successful market to enter. Here is everything you need to know about competition and how it will affect your online business:
FIRST THINGS FIRST: DEFINING A COMPETITOR
You’d be amazed at how many online marketers there are, both new and old, that are completely lacking when it comes to identifying their competition. The thinking typically goes something like this: “I’m focusing on topic x. This person is also focusing on topic x. Therefore, we are competitors.” You know that old adage, the one that goes “correlation does not equal causation”, it holds true here as well. The reality of defining a competitor is a bit more nuanced. There are three main groups of people that you need to look for. Grab a piece of paper and pen, and write down the competitors that you find while searching for these hallmarks.
-Someone Who Is Doing Exactly What You Want To Do: If you want to make money by posting Grand Theft Auto V videos on YouTube and selling branded T-shirts, then your competition will include anyone trying to do the same thing (VanossGaming, for example). If you’re trying to sell Shredz supplements through Instagram photos, then just about every fitness model on the platform is your competition.
Know what your desired niche is and know what your preferred methodology is. Once you’ve done that, you can correctly identify who you need to keep an eye on and who is in a different corner of the playground.
-Someone Who Is Selling What You Want To Sell: Your competition isn’t always going to be using the same methodology as you. Before committing to any new market, you should be making a comprehensive list of products and services that you may intend to sell. Take your most likely candidates from this list, and start scouring the Internet for others trying to sell the same thing.
A simple search for “X (the product) reviews” online will reveal a lot of those that you may be going up against.
-Someone Attempting To Attract The Same Audience As You: For many, this is going to be the first in a long line of “gut checks” in the Internet marketing world. There is no simple, step-by-step way to figure out who is going after your audience. Rarely is Internet business about “input x, output y”, it is much less solid. You’re going to need some good intuition to create leads in your investigation.
If you know your desired niche like you should, then knowing the wants and needs of your (potential) target audience should be just about second nature. What problems do they want solved? How do they spend their free time online? Being able to follow this trail of breadcrumbs will enable you to figure out who else is vying for your target audience. Many of them won’t be directly in your niche; but you will still be competing with these site owners all the same.
Your list of competitors should be quite extensive by now. Keep it somewhere safe, you’ll be referring to (and updating) this list often throughout the life of your business. Now that you know what competition is, the value of competition can be discussed.
IS NICHE COMPETITION A GOOD THING?
The short answer: it depends. The long answer: it always depends.
Seriously though, there are a ton of factors that go into deciding whether or not competition in a niche makes it worth pursuing. It will depend on the specific market that you’re entering and the type of person you are at the core. Before getting to that though, There are the pros and cons that everyone should be aware of.
-The “heavy lifting” is already done for you. Established players in a niche have already figured out what has worked within the market. All you have to do is find an original angle and capitalize.
-You’re uniquely positioned to be better for consumers. You don’t necessarily have to figure out how you’ll solve a market’s problem. All you have to do is take an existing solution and make it better. It’s a smaller leap to make for a novice marketer.
-A healthy market reveals patterns. If you can recognize those patterns then you can capitalize on them.
-Competition prevents the creation of monopolies. Most economists agree that total market domination will eventually lead to issues such as price fixing and lower product quality.
-An occupied market can lead to lower prices, and higher costs. When there is little to compete on when it comes to product quality, the only thing left to compete on is price. Sellers will pay more for valuable traffic, and offer their products/services for less to lure buyers.
-There may be too much market share already taken. Certain markets come with fiercely loyal customers. If they’ve already found a provider that they’re happy with, you stand little chance of luring them away. If there is a limit to members of the market, there may not be much left for you to claim.
-Established players could be watching for you. Remember, you’re not the only one trying to find your piece of the pie. There are countless marketers online in a multitude of niches. Some are willing to do anything and everything to protect their share. That includes snuffing out your business by any means.
Before wrapping up on discussing the merits of competition, there is a term that all online marketers should become familiar with: creative destruction. It is the idea that in a capitalist society, progress is inevitable, and existing businesses, markets, and ideas must be destroyed and replaced for the economy to continue.
You’re not entering the world on online marketing in its wild west phase. The Internet is crowded, and the old way of doing things isn’t going to work for much longer. Are you ready, willing, and able to be that destructive force that brings something newer and better to the market. For many of you reading this, it may be your only way to make a mark in the world of online business. It is something to consider.
HOW CAN YOU HANDLE COMPETITION?
There are some in the online sphere that talk about finding niches that are devoid of competition. It sounds like a pipe dream, because it is. The Internet is in its third decade of being “mainstream”, there are few established markets that haven’t been tapped in some way. You therefore have two options: you can create a new niche for yourself (not recommended if you aren’t already coming into this venture with an idea) or you can choose one of the following mindsets when dealing with competition:
“You play here, I’ll play here”- The idea here is that you’ll find a very specific segment of the market, and you’ll stick to it. It is more likely than not that you will avoid publicly acknowledging or “going after” your competition, and that those who aren’t unscrupulous will do the same for you.
“Can we team up”- If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. You can try going against your competition, but for some of you it will be better to turn them to your side. Partnering with your competition through mail swaps, content giveaways, affiliate deals, and joint ventures is a great way to build yourself up. The fact that you’re leveraging and building partnerships with those that would otherwise be against you? That’s icing on the cake.
“A la carte education”- This is another non-confrontational way to look at competition. Instead of treating competitors as someone to beat, treat them as opportunities to further yourself. Every established competitor has something to teach. Find what they’re doing best and incorporate it into your business.
“Win at all costs”- There is a specific subset of you reading this piece that will fall into this category. Competition doesn’t scare you, it emboldens you. Being the best is your one goal, the market share (and money) is merely a result of victory. You have a good chance to thrive with this mindset, provided you commit to doing things the right way. Angering your competitors with shady tactics and attacks could spell a quick end to your startup.
“I’m a lover, not a fighter”- Competition isn’t your thing. You’d rather play in your own corner. Unfortunately, the online business world revolves around competition. If you have absolutely no stomach for competition, it may be time to reevaluate your venture.
As mentioned earlier, the intricacies of competition and the effect it will have on your business will vary down to the individual level. You will end up categorizing yourself under one of these categories at some point though, it is better to do so now. The more you know going in, the better you’ll be able to react.
THE BEGINNINGS OF AN ACTION PLAN
You’ve figured out who your competitors are. You know how to figure out the fit of competition within your niche. You know how to figure out the mindset that best fits you. It is time to start putting your education into action. A detailed action plan can be the subject of its own pieces and products, but here are a few things to set you on the right path:
-IDENTIFY Your Competition: Hopefully you already completed the steps laid out in the “First Things First” section of this piece. If not, do so now. You need to know who you’re up against.
-RANK Your Competition: It’s important for you to know who is a big player worth keeping an eye on, and who is a small fry like you are (for now at least). Ranking your competition will take a bit more background research: you’ll need to know the quality of their content, the products they are selling, the methodology and sources of their traffic, and who they already partner with. It will take some time. Some of you will view it as grunt work. It is the type of work that needs to get done if you want to stand a chance in this business though.
-REVERSE ENGINEER Their Tactics: If you paid attention while ranking your competition, then some patterns should stand out from each of your competitors. There will be tactics that singular entities are using with great success. There will be some things that all members of the competition do (or avoid) that you’ll want to adopt as well. Even if you adopt very little from your competition, it is important to know what they’re about and how they operate. Every angle is worth knowing.
-CRAFT A Basic Foundation Plan: Once you know what your competition is about, you can start to craft what you’re about. There is no use building a business without having a solid foundation, and you cannot build a foundation without a solid plan. Take all of the information you have gathered so far, figure out the best way forward for your niche, and move on to the next step,which is:
-EXECUTE: You can spend forever talking and reading, or you can start doing something. You don’t need to be perfect, you need to get started. However, don’t take a call to action as a call to reckless action. Track everything that you do. Analyze what does and doesn’t work. Most importantly: ADJUST accordingly. It will be the difference between success and failure.
This piece has focused on the role competition plays specifically in a business environment. It is important for you to turn inward as well, and understand what competition means to you. This is a mental “game”. If you can convince yourself that you’re up to the task of taking on your competition, then you’ll surprise yourself with your abilities. If you think they’re too good, or there are too many competitors, then all you need to do is wait for failure.
Mental toughness is the key here. Do you have it? If not, can you build it? Ponder this question as you go about your day.