People are natural and creative problem solvers.  If there are lingering problems of importance, they’ll usually find ways to reduce or eliminate them.  The severity of the pain determines how far people will go to solve the problems.  This is crucial to understand when considering your competition.  You always have competition, whether they’re direct competitors, who offer similar products, or indirect substitutes, that solve the same problems with different methods.  Much more than your direct competition, the array of solutions in use defines your competitive set.  The best way to arrive at a comprehensive list of competitors is to answer the question, “What pain am I trying to solve, and how do people solve it today?”  This open-minded approach can lead to major breakthroughs.  Southwest Airlines, for example, got its start by competing against cars, not other airlines.  For the same price as a car trip Southwest could get you to your destination in less than half the time.  They reframed the competition.  While airlines all compete for air travel, it’s easy to forget that there are a bunch of ways to travel, including trains, rental cars, buses, or boats.  How are your potential customers solving their problems today?  That’s your real set of competitors.

Matt Sand

Author Matt Sand

Passionate about making a difference through innovation and entrepreneurship.

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