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Beware the Devils you Don’t Know

Why you need a sixth sense to detect competitors you're not aware of

Most companies recognize their direct competition but frequently underestimate the indirect competition and completely overlook the invisible competition. Invisible competitors don’t look or feel like competition and, by definition, are not obvious at first.

In her new book, “Capture Mindshare and the Market Share Will Follow,” (Palgrave MacMillan) brand strategy expert Libby Gill says it’s worth developing a sort of branding sixth sense to see what might be up ahead in the marketplace that could potentially deter your clients from choosing you. Here are some things to be mindful of:

Customer fear– Prospects can get cold feet when faced with making a final buying decision. If this is happening to you on more than an occasional basis, you need to determine the root cause. Have you not sufficiently proven your value? Do you lack a solid guarantee that assuages customers’ concerns? Are you failing to provide comparable case studies, client results or references that would remove purchasing fear? It may be time to survey some trusted former customers to see whether you can figure out what’s not working and correct it.

Unexpected alliances – Sometimes your direct or indirect competitors unexpectedly join forces in ways that can challenge your business with a brutal one-two punch. Being on the lookout for what might come to pass may seem a bit paranoid, but anything can happen — and often does — on our globally interconnected planet.

New challengers– Emerging companies, while nearly impossible to predict, always pose a threat to your business. By assuming that new competitors are out there, ready to pounce, you’ll stay value-driven and service-focused.

Fading relevance – Sometimes companies simply become irrelevant. While the FlipCam was a great product at a good price, once iPhone and others added HD video cameras, along with other features all in one smart phone, who needed an extra piece of hardware? You may not always be able to see around corners to predict what’s coming next in terms of taste or technology, but regularly monitoring the competition and managing your own brand are the best ways to combat irrelevance.

If brands are not constantly moving forward, they die — or at least they risk losing significant market share, Gill says. “Your brand should be in a state of constant evolution. By being in a state of continual watchfulness, you can manage your brand, make course corrections and monitor the competition at the same time. That’s the only way to stay ahead of the curve and keep your brand relevant to returning and new customers.”