Unlikely Competitors… Part III


If you manufacture computer screens… or coffee cups, step ladders… or any other product from feather dusters to construction equipment… it’s pretty easy to figure out where your main competition is coming from.

Service businesses, on the other hand, have additional challenges when it comes to marketing.

We often find that we must compete with the very people that we want to have as customers… an unlikely occurrence in manufacturing or distribution sectors.

A manufacturer of paper products, for example, may compete with other papermakers… but they do not compete with the end user.

An accountant, however, must overcome the fact that their prospective customer may likely be handling that function in-house. Their prospect may be in the jewelry business… but weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annually… they also do accounting.

The same can be said of virtually any service company… from attorneys to counselors to interior designers to plumbers and electricians.

And of course, it’s also true for me… as a marketing and small business coach, it is critical to understand and work with the current processes, routines, and skill sets that are already in place at each of my clients. Before I ever arrive on the scene, someone… is doing marketing.


In business, the competition consists of all possible alternatives to the solution that we are proposing. As we stated, in a service business, those alternatives include the client doing it themselves.

In the case of the accountant or bookkeeper, the strongest competition could be a $129 software package that allows the prospect to track their own income and expenses.

For a personal trainer, the competition could be the free advice that comes with a YMCA membership, or a three DVD set sold on a late-night infomercial.

Attorneys are now up against services like legalzoom.com, that allow anyone access to common legal documents at a fraction of the previous cost.

The biggest competitor for a flooring contractor may be the “HOME IMPROVEMENT” section of Barnes and Noble… while the “SELF IMPROVEMENT” section gives a marriage counselor fits.

These are all examples of resources that allow our ideal customers to do the work themselves… for better or worse.


So the real questions become, “Is the in-house route the best solution for the customer? Can they actually perform the work better than you, the professional?”

Seldom… but then, why do they do it? There are at least three reasons:

1) They have always done it that way.
2) They believe the current process is “good enough”.
3) They do not see significant additional benefits, or reduced risk, in changing.

To succeed, our marketing plan must first address these issues by providing relevant content… along with insights, ideas, and information that our ideal customer will find truly valuable.

And then our performance must deliver on every expectation. The greatest message in the world cannot cover for average service in the long run.

I look forward to speaking with you.



What is your ideal customer trying to accomplish by attempting to handle their needs in-house?

What is the single, most powerful benefit that your prospective customer would gain by using your service, instead of their own staff?

How will you communicate that to them beginning Monday morning?


Photo Credit:

average everyday sane psycho