or, What You Don’t Know About Your Biggest Competition

Picture the three companies that get all the jobs you wish you got. Get yourself green with envy, picturing your Ideal Customer waltzing into someone else’s store, falling in love with their service, their cushy interiors, their cool product line.

You know none of it’s as good as yours and it steams you up.

That’s your customer, giving your money to someone else. They don’t see! They don’t know! You could cry with the pain of watching your customer make such a mistake!

As the pundits were fond of saying of Al Gore when folks claimed Ralph Nader had stolen “his” votes:

They weren’t yours to begin with.

Why they weren’t yours is a subject for another day. Today you want to know where your Ideal Customer is, if that wasn’t her walking out of the shop down the street with three huge bags full of goodies.

Your Ideal Customer is sitting on her keester at home, watching the telly. Or talking on the phone. Or helping her kid through the agonies of first-year Latin. Because your biggest competition isn’t down the street.

Meet your biggest competition:

The Dreaded Do Nothing.

Yes, in spite of your awesomer customer service, cushier interiors, and way, way cooler product line, your Ideal Customer has chosen to buy a pizza instead. Or a sofa. Or a Mercedes XZ 3million. Or a good night’s sleep. In your head, you’re competing with the other people who sell [what you sell] on your street. But that’s not how it works.

Let’s say you’re a pet-octopus store. When you first get into business you assume that you’re in competition with those other three purveyors of pet octopii and octopus food, tanks, and cute little octopus outfits for the holidays.

Then someone informs you of the Internet, and you realize you’re also competing against amazon’s massive octopus-sales department. But with your cushy interiors and the gotta-have-it-now factor, you’re not worried about that. You’re aware of the broader market, but confident of your winning difference.

When you’ve been around a while, you start thinking progressively about the competition. Hey, some people are in the octopus-consideration stages. They may be easily swayed by a cute Labrador Retriever. But with your enthusiastic, specialized service, you can knock the idea of Rover out as you describe the joys of cuddling with an inky pal. The definition of your competition has broadened, but you’re strategizing better than ever.

What if it’s entertainment you’re competing with? Okay, you’ll think of ways to talk about octopii as better than a night at the movies. And so on, and so on.

Those are all the other thing someone does with their money.

A lot of times—and I hesitate to add, “in these times”—people are doing nothing with their money. It’s always been your biggest competitor but as we continue to reel from post-recession-depression, The Dreaded Do Nothing is out there more than ever.

So what can you do?

Three things.

First—tighten your definition of what you do so you no longer have to worry about the usual competition. I want you to redefine yourself, starting today, not as “a” [whatever you do]. From now on you are “the.”

You’re not “a” pet-octopus store anymore. This is incredibly hard work, but you are going to find out what you are “the” of. When you are “the” only octopus obedience school for five or six towns around, you’re on to something. No one is going to drive 25 miles for Advanced Octopus Obedience Training. Think about it.

Second—you are going to define your Ideal Customer so tightly that you know what color underwear she’d choose on a Tuesday in March. You are going to speak to one person. Only one. And you are going to imagine her watching reruns of The Office. You are going to be more exciting than the original series before it went all mushy and Americanized. And you are going to move her keester with an offer that speaks to her needs—to the pain she thinks no one can ever understand. You are going to tackle Do Nothing head on by talking about it, and you are going to win.

I’m thinking you get Ricky Gervais in to do the unit on octopus anger management. But I’m flexible on that. Keep focusing.

Third—when you know you are The Only You, when you are making an offer that is blazing hot, only to the one customer who needs what you have most and can afford it, you are going to give up the jealousy and get patient. Go all zen—like when you first learned to hunt octopus in the wilds of Borneo. Send your call to action over time, repeat yourself more than you want to, and keep that singular focus on her needs.

Seven touches? Nine touches? 20 touches to yes?

Patience is the hardest step. Believe me, I know. And it’s also essential. If you change the message midway through, you’re starting over. So tighten your definition, define your customer and pinpoint her needs, and repeat until successful:

Octopus Obedience Training solves your nagging, secret problems way better than watching Ricky Gervais.


Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson


P.S. Just a quick reminder: Why *You* Should Work for FREE is way, way better than watching Ricky Gervais.