How to Avoid Competition by Taking the Opposite Path
If you have a small business or side-hustle, competing head-on with others in your arena can be a total race to the bottom. When you’ve got competition, or when others are watching, sometimes the best answer is to choose the road less traveled.
You can build your own ‘blue ocean’ by studying the current trends and avoiding them.
While the rest of your industry competes head-to-head, you can take the backdoor. There are multiple ways to compete in your niche. If you take the contrarian’s path, not only can you cement your place as a leader in your niche, you can also shortcut the time it takes to get there.
While the others in your niche compete on price and features, you’ll build a ‘tollbooth’ position of your own.
The Common Wisdom
Common wisdom tells us we shouldn’t choose a certain business model unless there are already competitors in the space. While this means we have a proven niche, it also means we’ve got to compete head-to-head with other, established businesses in the space.
When you chase common wisdom you also dump your business into the lion’s den.
If you’ve got a new side-hustle, it means you compete head-to-head with established businesses in your niche. It doesn’t matter if you sell soap or software, if you place your business square in the middle of other established players, you now compete for attention.
Also, when competing with established players you’ve got to compete on price.
The average price is already established. If you’re new, one of your only differentiators is to race to the bottom by undercutting the other players in the space. When you compete on price your work becomes a commodity, like toilet paper and table salt.
Common wisdom also tells us to learn from those who came before us and emulate them.
This piece of advice will make us look more like a copycat than an innovator. There’s only one original. Everyone else is just a copy. While you can learn a lot from those who came before you, be careful to adopt their business models. Sometimes, innovators win despite their business model, all because they created something we’ve never seen before.
Start with Research
Study the competition in your space, both direct and indirect. There are many common practices in your space. I’m willing to bet most of them are taken for granted and have plenty of room to be challenged.
- What is the common wisdom in your niche?
- What are the common practices?
- What similar products are offered?
- What are the common beliefs?
- What is the current pricing, or range of pricing?
- What do customers expect from these current players?
When you start with the research you get a 360-degree view of this world.
The research will start to uncover holes. If you can find the top three beliefs in your niche, you can build a contrarian approach around them. You’ll find the road less traveled. As the rest compete for elbow room in the current space you can develop your own island.
The Contrarian Approach
When you take the opposite view, behavior, or approach from all the other players in your niche, you instantly become the leader of the new approach. While everyone fights to be the loudest voice in an overcrowded space, all you have to do is raise your hand and say, “hey, over here.”
The contrarian takes a current, deeply-held belief and turns the belief on its head.
While everyone says, “Water is wet,” you say, “No. Water is actually dry. Here’s why…”
When you’re a contrarian you can compete in the same, crowded space without all the downside. If you can convince customers to agree with your ideas, you become the only person in your space–an instant leader.
When you take the contrarian approach you instantly build your island.
You, by default, become the leader of the tribe, because no one else makes the same claim as you. If anyone wants what you have, they must go through your business. Price, features, and all the other race-to-the-bottom stuff, disappear. You become the only business on the island.
Novelty Gets Remembered
When we experience the same day every day, we forget. Our brains are wired for novelty. When you bring a contrarian approach to your niche, you’ll get noticed. All the people in the niche are used to a certain set of common wisdom.
Here, you come in and challenge that wisdom.
Maybe we don’t agree with you right away, but you got our attention. We begin to question all the other players. “Maybe this new person has the right idea…”
If all the other sheep in the flock are orange and you come out with purple wool, it doesn’t take much to get noticed.
With a solid marketing plan, you contrarian approach will stand out, not only as something novel, but as the only solution if we believe in what you stand for.
It’s easier to create contrarian content to help establish your tollbooth position. Return to your research. Look at all the conventional wisdom. Start creating content that says the exact opposite of what everyone believes.
Now, of course you need data to back-up your claims. You can’t be a contrarian just to start and argument.
But if you can take the opposite approach from the conventional wisdom and couple that approach with a better solution–your niche can’t help but notice you.
Here are some places you can create contrarian content:
- Challenge the current headlines with your headline
- Post contrarian social media content
- Take pictures of yourself doing the opposite, with the current wisdom in question, as a description
- Study the news in your niche. Create your own news, saying how the current headlines missed a key feature
Your contrarian content doesn’t have to be base don current events, however. You can build evergreen pieces of content that challenge industry norms.
- Challenge safety claims
- Challenge productivity claims
- Challenge health claims
- Challenge income claims
There’s plenty of room for evergreen contrarian content.
There is a Shortcut
While there’s no shortcut for the work required you can take a shortcut to leadership. While everyone else in your niche competes with the same established rules and values, you can swoop-in and take the opposite approach.
It’s like a new cashier opening a line at the grocery store.
You were in line for 20 minutes. The new cashier opens his register. You go straight to the front of the new line. When you open a contrarian-based business you become the new line. You get instant-attention.
- Why did we believe the opposite until now?
- What if this new person is right and we’ve been wrong all-along?
- What if there’s a better way to do this?
There are the mental questions your potential customers face when you take the contrarian view.
We Build a Tollbooth Business
When we’ve got a tollbooth position in our niche, the price becomes less-relevant. If someone wants what we have, we’re the only player in the space.
The contrarian doesn’t have to compete on price.
You either agree and want to do business with us, or you choose to endure your pain longer. We have the right solution. We proved our position. There’s no one else in the space.
While everyone else fights for the last scraps of customers, you’re on the other side, serving your clients with a better solution. Their only choice.
You become an instant expert.
You’re the king/queen of your little, blue ocean. If someone wants an expert to quote, they must quote you. There’s no other choice. You show the world why the current way of thinking hasn’t worked and your way is the better way.
The choice is obvious. If the customer wants the better solution, she must choose you.
The Vultures Will Come
Your Competition will notice once you make a splash as the newcomer. You’ve dug a hole in their business. You challenged everything they stand-for. You took their clients.
They will come for you.
But look what happened. Before, you were the newcomer. Now, as the contrarian, the old players must agree your method is better. They must agree their way of thinking was wrong. The old companies become the new copycats.
You’ll be ready.
A contrarian’s work is never done. Once competition recognizes you’ve invaded their space, you need to find new places to become a contrarian. Instead of competing against your own business, look for new ways you can serve the people you already serve.
There are many firm, current positions in your marketplace. Find a new spot to challenge the status quo.
You Have a Choice
When you take the contrarian approach it doesn’t mean you’re a jerk. All it means is you took the time to find a better solution than the common wisdom.
You can take a stand without making people feel stupid.
You’re not calling your customers wrong. All you say is you’ve found a better solution. A solution that didn’t exist until now. It’s not their fault they didn’t get the results they expected. The model was wrong. There was no way they could win on their current path. Here you come along. You’ve got the new, correct answer.
You’re the only player in the arena. You are now the contrarian.
August Birch is an author, email expert, and entrepreneur from Michigan, USA. As a self-appointed guardian of writers and creators, August teaches indies how to make more work that sells and sell more work once it’s made. When he’s not writing or teaching, August carries a pocket knife and shaves his head with a safety razor.