Working out who your direct and indirect competitors are can feel like a big job to tackle, especially on a grey afternoon February. The world is a tough place for everyone right now and it may feel at times as though everyone around you has a better business model, higher earnings or a more groundbreaking idea. In short, everyone might start to feel like a direct competitor fighting for the last spare pound a customer or client has.

But, this is not the case. You offer something particular, different, unique from the others but your sense of perspective is mirroring the gloomy weather outside. To help pick you up, this article breaks down who and what are your direct and indirect competitors and how you can go about researching and implementing your findings in a way that will boost business, your self confidence and hopefully have a knock on effect in the wider creative community!

Direct Competitors

Who are your direct competitors and how do you use this knowledge to help your business?

Your direct competitors are the people who offer the same thing as you to the same target market. If you have a cafe specialising in single origin coffee and homemade pastries, you are in direct competition with every other cafe in your area that sells single origin coffee and homemade pastries.

Now if you think about your business or your freelancing practice, can you name three direct competitors who are producing the same thing as you for the same target market? If you are struggling to do that then you have a very unique idea giving you a good advantage to leverage. However, the more unique an idea is, the more you need to educate your target clients in order to show them that they really need your product or service.

If you can think of a lot more than three direct competitors, do not panic! This means that your product is probably very popular and there is a good, stable flow of potential clients. However, it does mean that you have to go above and beyond with positioning yourself as unique within a niche.

For example…

You make handmade jewellery and have a shop in a popular location for jewellers. At first glance all the pieces in this area look the same, what you need to do is leverage something that makes you and your work special. It could be your personality that attracts more clients because you are warm, open and listen to your customers’ needs. Maybe you offer a particular form of personalisation to each piece of jewellery. Whatever it is, make sure people know this about you and your product.

I have mentioned in previous posts the importance of benchmarking and how to identify your target market. These are both elements of your market analysis research that, alongside identifying your direct competitors are going to give you the best chance of knowing what your customer wants and how you can best persuade them that you are the person to choose.

Remember that this does not have to feel underhand or in any way sneaky.
Direct and Indirect competitors

Approach other business owners, find out what they do and how they feel it’s going. If you do identify someone who is so completely your direct competitor then you could turn this competition on it’s head and make it into a partnership. Or, taking into account the cost living crisis that we are currently facing, consider whether they might want to share a shop space and spread some of the costs.

If you go into this market research feeling hostile and negative, the likelihood is that you will be met with a similar reaction. You know our favourite word is gentleness and actually, more often than not, if you put gentleness and kindness out into the world, you’ll get the same back.

The most important thing is to take time over doing your market research. Get to know your direct competitors’ products, their way of doing business and see if there is something that you like or dislike. Then consider how you could improve and incorporate this into your business. A warning though, copying someone else is something we would never advocate and what you do should be as unique as you are where that’s product design or the content you post on social media. You wouldn’t like it and neither does anyone else.

Direct and Indirect Competitors

Indirect Competitors 

Your indirect competitors are those who offer something that could replace your product if yours was not available and would satisfy the same need. It does not need to be a similar product but simply something that fills the requirements of the buyer.

If we take the same example as above – the coffee shop with the single origin coffee and homemade pastries – we can start to understand who our indirect competitors are. Anyone or anything who serves refreshments is an indirect competitor. This ranges from other small cafes to large chains, drinks machines and even supermarkets.

Indirect competitors may sound even more intimidating than the direct ones but do not underestimate your potential client base and the things that make you unique. Once again, make a list of maybe 10 indirect competitors and what makes them indirectly competitive to you, how you differ from them and why this is important to a potential customer.

It’s almost impossible not to have some indirect competitors.

But as technology and trends change and develop it is important to stay aware of what is happening outside of your immediate business. Maybe you don’t want to embrace new technology in your product  because part of the innate value and the uniqueness of it is that it uses traditional methods.

However that does not mean that you shouldn’t be embracing tech in other areas of your business. Using AI to help plan out you editorial plan or to overcome you writers block for your blog; using a tool like HubSpot as your CRM saviour or Basecamp for your client specific projects are great ways to incorporate tech. Having a strong, on brand online presence will help make you stand out from your direct and indirect competitors too. Your customers will get to know you and your brand making it easily identifiable that this product had been produced by you.

Competitive Analysis Tools and Techniques

If you are still feeling a little panicked then here are a few resources and market research tools that you might find helpful.

SWOT Analysis:
Have a look at this article on SWOT analysis. It breaks down each element and clarifies what goes where. This deceptively simple but ultimately very useful visual tool is one you need to know.

Competitor Benchmarking:
As mentioned above, this article on benchmarking gives you an in depth guide as to how and why you should do a benchmark analysis. If you want even more information, this article from Asana provides some really great information too.

Online Tools for Competitor Analysis:
For other online tools, SemrushLucidchart and Brandwatch all provide different versions of competitor analysis. No matter what you want to focus on and what your preferred setup is, there will be something right for you. If you do decide to go with specific software then choose one you feel most comfortable with and that works with how you work.

Direct and Indirect Competitors

Conclusion

The main thing to remember is not to worry! Whether you are entering, or are in, a market that is near a saturation point or one that is barely known, there is an opportunity for you. You are the greatest selling point of your business so utilise that key strength that no one else has. Differentiate by finding collaborations within or outside your market, get to know your direct competitors on a personal level and keep updating your research. Setting aside some time to gain more information on your sector each month or each quarter will help to calm your own anxieties. It will also make decision making a bit easier as you will feel like you have more information at your fingertips. Above all, don’t be afraid to be different, don’t be afraid of change and know that if you need help, it will be available.

Good luck and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch, we would love to hear from you!

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