Understanding your client's four competitors

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Besides making your client pull their hair out, the competition forces everyone to work harder + more efficient. I always had the mentality that competition was bad + that there was nothing you could do about it. Recognize that there are four types of competition: geographic, category, services + style. Each has their own implications, but can be dealt with when you know what to look out for.

Four types of competitors your client has

Geographic competition

This one is simple, geographic competition are the businesses in the same location as you. For a retail business this is typically the businesses on the same street or neighborhood. For a services business, like a professional photographer or personal chef, competition could be city-wide or state-wide, even. Even in a city like New York, most people will likely only continually visit the businesses close to where they work and live. Making sure you are a notable spot is incredibly important.

Category competition

All of the services + products a business offers adds up to a category. Does your client sell coffee + homemade pastries in a cozy environment? Likely they are a coffee shop + they are not the only one in the world. In a neighborhood where potential customers could easily drive to get to another similar business, think about how to set your client apart in their oversaturated category.

Services competition

Services people, it’s what a business offers. Some business have several services, others have one main service that is their bread + butter. Think about a restaurant that also sells dishware or a yoga studio that sells yoga mats. Not all businesses choose to offer the same services, so this could set two businesses in competing categories apart.

Style competition

When we brand our businesses we think we’re a unique snowflake, but it’s difficult to DIY an entirely one-of-a-kind brand. Style can overlap from business to business. Raise your hand if you have seen a blog use bright gold accents, hand lettering or bright neons? So now that we all have our hands up, let’s put them down + talk about some style trends. Minimal, rustic, girly + romantic—these are a few ways someone could describe the style of their brand. Even though two businesses may describe themselves as minimal what sets them apart is how that style is executed.

So, what can your clients do about these competitors?

Befriend your neighbors

If you have a physical location, neighbors are secret weapons. You might not have too much in common with a local florist, but when their clients are looking for a sandwich or coffee they are likely to recommend your cafe to them.

Spend time with the competition

In other words, learn from competitions + take note of anything that potentially turns you off or confuses you. Also note anything that you particularly enjoyed about your experience. A quick gut check with the competition can teach you so much of what works for your client OR what isn't working.

Highlight unique services

Embrace what you sense is unique about your client. Your client might be too bogged down in the daily reality of running their business, so it's up to you to illuminate what services make their business special with your outside perspective.

Do not copy others

Want to be original? Look around at what you see a lot of + do the complete opposite. Especially when you are doing work for clients, create original work. Anyone can find a template online, don't be a template for yourself or your client's brand.


Food for thought // Does your business have competition? How did you deal with competition creatively?