Completition Vs. Competition

A couple of months ago I put some thought into the area of competition. You may not know, but my latest startup has some competition. The competition we face ranges from trivial to troublesome.

But we're glad to have it.

Once you launch a startup, it's only a matter of time until competing businesses come along.

Image courtesy Official US Navy Imagery

The Joy of Competition

In the beginning, I saw competitors as a threat, but this opinion didn't last long. Now I see competitors as a blessing. If you launch a business, and 2, 3, 10 months, or 2 years later you have no competitors, it likely means your business idea stinks. Of course you may have some exceptional advantage like a bevy of patents or an ambitious goal where competition is expensive (vacation resorts on Mars, space elevators). But for the most part, competition means you are on to something.

Originals and Clones

Competitors are of two types: originals and clones.

Originals are businesses whose founders had the idea that led to the business. Clones simply got the idea from originals. There can be multiple originals. But whether you are an original or a clone is mainly in the perspective of the competition. You may be an original, but to a competitor, they likely see you as a clone. And if you're an original, you'll view the competitors you discover post-launch to be clones. It really doesn't matter. It's all perspective.

So what is Completition?

Completition is the merging of "complete" and "competition". Yes, it's clever.

Completition is the advantage of having competition. Competition helps to complete and reinforce multiple areas of your business: pricing, features, and the market picture.

Pricing

Competition not only validates your business idea, but also helps in determining pricing. Coming up with pricing for SaaS (software as a service) is difficult especially if there are no anchors or similar services. We launched at a different monthly price (and pricing structure) than we have now. It changed months later due to multiple factors, but having similar services in the market (competitors) helped us to settle on a price that worked for our long-term growth, yet was sensible compared to competitors.

Features

Businesses who copy competitors' features are facing a losing challenge. Since the features were probably planned and built starting 2 weeks to 6 months before, you're already way behind. But having the same features as your competitors (if you didn't just copy them) can help customers compare services. It also is somewhat indicative that you have features that customers want, since others have built them too.

For smart businesses, features aren't built unless the customer asks for them explicitly, or the product folks see it as a solution to customers' unspoken (or unknown) problems. By the time the feature is out, customers should have validated the idea as a sound one (either through conversations about the upcoming feature or by prototype). Putting out a feature that you "hope will fly" is a terrible approach and a waste of time.

More features does not mean a better product. In many cases, the fewer the better. Just make products that solve most of the customer's problems as quickly and simply as possible (from the customer's experience, not yours). Making things simpler for the customer usually involves more work for product (in making decisions for the customer) and engineers (they have more to code since the complexity is offloaded to them).

Market Picture

Let's face it. Consumers like choice. No consumer wants to buy products or services without a choice, under the whims of a monopoly. Consumers want to search out competitors, compare prices, compare features, get opinions, and make informed decisions. Too many choices can almost be worse than no choice, however. But most markets over time will shake out the weak competitors (or the entrepreneurs not in it for the long haul).

So to consumers, having this complete market picture helps them feel comfortable with the company they purchase from, with the knowledge that if they are let down, there are alternatives. Of course this makes it hard to retain customers, but I think if you're honest, available, and fair, your customers will stick around. Especially if you bend over backwards to provide customer service and products that exceed expectations. That's what we're doing at [TalkToTheManager][https://talktothemanager.com/]. Check us out if you own a business or know someone who does.

What are Your Thoughts?

In the comments section below, please share your opinion and experience.

Photo courtesy Official US Navy Imagery CC BY 2.0

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