Who Is Your Competitor?
Seems like an obvious question. Your competitor is anyone operating in your market that offers a similar product or service to yours.

Think for a minute, however, about alternatives to what your organization does as indirect competitors. Think beyond your core direct competitors.

Why indirect competitors matter

Tattoos are an alternative to jewelry. Tattoos are impacting the jewelry business, and not just the battle in attracting millennials to be future customers.

Hershey’s, the iconic chocolate and candy company, learned that kids were spending more of their allowance on apps and ringtone downloads and less on Hershey’s products.

Competition for the restaurant lunch business isn’t just other restaurants, it’s also increased time pressures at work leading to fewer sit-down restaurant meals. And, of course, food trucks have changed the landscape as well.

Once you begin to think about alternatives, and not just traditional competitors, your field of vision changes, and you see your offering through the lens of the consumer. You realize that there isn’t just a traditional Pepsi competing with your Coke.

Competition in the association space

What are the alternatives to the education and professional development you offer?

The medical and scientific communities have known for some time that Continuing Medical Education (CME) is offered by thousands of alternative non-association and professional society providers, often much more conveniently and at no cost. That’s a real challenge for the medical conferences with CME as the core reason to attend.

What are the alternatives to your events and conferences?

You already know that social networks are very good alternatives for creating communities. And it’s hard to beat watching a great TED talk in the comfort of your office or living room.

Each of these alternatives and an onslaught of for-profit commercial organizers of great live experiences have created a new playbook for learning, connecting, doing business and exploring new ideas.

Here’s a suggestion for how to offset your indirect competition and beat your core competitors: Focus on your customer, not your competitor.

Customers tell us what they need, and it’s our job to deliver that better than anyone else. More importantly, it’s our job to learn what they want and to offer that before anyone else does.

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