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Who Else Has Your Idea?: Scoping Out the Competition.

So you have your startup idea and are ready to rock but have you ever stopped to think about your competition? Have you considered that someone might have already had your idea, and even worse, has already started bringing it to life? Competition is the fourth most common reason startups fail so it is imperative to be aware of your competition. While checking out your competition may seem daunting, it is a crucial step in validating your startup and gauging the market interest.

Now you are probably thinking, how do I know whether or not my startup idea is already out there? And even more so, who are my competitors? 

Well thankfully, we’ve got the answers! The first, and rather simple step is to start with Google. While it may seem obvious to simply type your startup idea into a search engine, being intentional with the words you utilize will offer you greater insight into your potential competitors. Keywords are about to become your best friend!

Even though many of us are aware of what keywords are and what purpose they serve, we will do a quick rundown for the sake of it. A keyword is a word or phrase that makes it possible for potential customers to find your site or product via a search engine. A keyword can be a single word or even a phrase that is more specific and lengthy. We will examine three different types of keywords; problem based keywords, functionality based keywords, and value based keywords.

First off, start with problem based keywords. Search what your potential clients would search if they were looking for the solution you can provide. This will show you who, if anyone, is already providing your service or product. For example, if your idea is to create a coffee shop that is pet friendly, your target market are those that like coffee and have a pet. Now you need to brainstorm what they would be googling to solve that problem. Start with “where can I bring my dog?” or “coffee shops that allow pets?” Take a deep dive into the search results and gauge if the problem is already solved or if you have a sparkly brand new idea!

Next, utilize functionality based keywords or keywords that are broad descriptors of what your product or service is capable of providing. Taking our coffee shop example, searching “pet friendly apps iphone” or “coffee shop finder android” will bring up potential competitors. It will show you whether or not the functions your application, service, or product will provide have already been done. 

Lastly, search value based keywords that demonstrate the significance and advantages of your product or service. These are the result of functionality searches and clearly lays out the benefits of your product or service in comparison to others. These keywords highlight the most important values of the target audience and how those values are included in your product or service. An easy way to approach generating these keywords is to pretend to answer frequently asked questions. FAQ’s are typically key identifiers of value in your product or service.

Let’s take a second to catch our breath and talk about why it is perfectly ok, and potentially even a good thing, if someone else does have your idea! To start, if no one else has your idea it could signal that there isn’t a need for it. If there really isn’t something else like your idea out there, you will have to educate your audience which can become expensive rather quickly. There is always the chance that someone else may have had your startup idea in the past and failed miserably due to a lack of market validation. This is why if your idea, or something similar, is already out there it means there is enough interest to keep it afloat

In the circumstance that your idea is out there, the most important elements to consider are the ways you can differentiate yourself from the competition. It is important to be unique without completely reinventing the wheel. Three impactful ways to individualize yourself are to niche down your idea, offer free paid products, and put an emphasis on personal touch.

Customizing your product to fit into a certain niche is beneficial, but even more so is offering specific features and benefits for that niche in particular. Think back on value based keywords. For example, taking your resource guide for art enthusiasts and turning it into a guidebook for first time crocheters, you will expand your potential reach by simply catering it to a specific group of people. By intentionally meeting the needs of a specific niche, you solidify yourself as the primary resource within the community. Providing a resource also demonstrates that you have something valuable to offer outside of just the service or product you are trying to sell.

Adapting your paid product into a free product or service to provide your consumers with a taste of what you can do not only entices them, but also demonstrates your quality and expertise. Going back to the crochet guidebook, it may be tempting to sell it at a low price and make an easy profit, but providing the guide for free will send the signal that there is more to your brand than making money. Neil Patel capitalizes on this element with his free tool Ubersuggest. By offering for free what many would charge for, Neil attracts thousands of customers! It also creates a sense of community amongst those who utilize his amazing free tool. 

Lastly, personalizing your customer experience so it is not simply an automated and routine encounter makes you stand out from the crowd. Especially if the technology standards are high, personalization is even more essential. While it can be easy to rely on technology for the mundane tasks, personalization is something you can offer in a startup that the big names simply cannot put forward. This human aspect will create a real sense of connection and community which is becoming more sought after in today’s society.

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