Have you seen these guys?
I get emails all the time from people asking that question. I just got one this morning from an advisor. If you have a startup, I’m sure you get them too. No matter how seasoned of an entrepreneur you are, your first reaction is always to cringe. They’re just not fun emails to get. Everyday at a startup, it feels like it might be the day the lights get turned off. Then you get an email seeing someone else doing what you do and think, “Fuck. Those guys are fucking smart.”
So how do you react?
1. Understand that the person sending you that email probably cares about you and just wants to help you. And they are. Make sure you know that. If you’re getting emails like that, ask why they felt compelled to send that, where did they find it or see it and if they tried the product out. If so, what did they think of the competition vs. your product. If you ask this just one time, the next time you get an email from them, the chances are you’ve turned them into a great testimonial for comparison.
2. Realize how great this is for validation that you’re on to something big. They’ve done you a favor in being a competitor. It’s so much more difficult to educate than it is to compete. I’ve recently switched from Dropbox to Box and both of these companies could have an IPO in the next year. There’s plenty of customers still out there even if you have a really good competitor.
3. You should know about your industry more than anyone else. I was reminded of this yesterday when I met with Nick Frost of Advisor. I asked him how they were different from a competitor. It was the most impressive, well-researched and credible answer I’ve ever received for that question. Imagine if someone gave the same review of you about your product when you were asked about a competitor. You cannot deliver that answer unless you intimately know your competition. And if you can answer to that degree, it builds a trust with a potential customer that is more powerful than switching to another solution that’s only 10% better. Nick also did a great job of answering how Advisor was different with what their strength was; “They use freelance CPAs and contractors. We have 18 full time in house experts that we recruit only from the ‘Big 4’ accounting firms”.
4. Always promote the industry above saying why you’re better. If someone asks you about competition, your first reaction should be to discuss them as it relates to the industry and their contribution to it. The book, “22 immutable laws of branding” is 30 years old and their principles still apply. This was one of the ones that is often overlooked by most companies. Even if you never read that book, your motivation to succeed should be bigger than beating a competitor. It should be to create something that changes the World because there is a big problem. If you truly hate that problem, then you will be genuinely happy that smart people are also sprinting to solve it. We really hate the technical ghetto that is happening with workflows. It contributes to an entire day each week of inefficiencies from context switching. Here’s a list of “competitors” we’ve gotten emails about that are doing a great job of helping with this issue in making the world more productive.
If we were lucky enough to have you as a customer at Ecquire, or you have checked out our site and we have not solved your needs in helping you become more productive and efficient, check these guys out. They’re doing some cool stuff and if you end up going with them over us, that’s great. We’re always in the mood for a good competition to win you back. I’m sure they’d say the same thing.