Last week, Seth Godin taught me something about competition. Some part of me already knew what I learned, but the words he used to describe the concept provided me with greater clarity. He said, “Two teachers don’t compete. They just occupy the same board.”
Not Real Competition
You don’t compete with your irrational competitor, the one who wins on price alone. You just happen to be on the same board. The prospective clients who resonate with the idea that the only real value is lowest price are not your prospective clients, and they most certainly aren’t your dream clients. Those prospects live in the bottom left corner of the board, where lowest price and transactional relationships reside.
You irrational competitor doesn’t compete with you either. They cannot create enough value to deserve a higher price. Their value proposition is not designed to attract or retain clients who want high trust, high caring, and high value. You create compelling, differentiated value worth paying for, and it places you somewhere in the top right quadrant. You are higher price and greater outcomes.
Your Place on the Board
Here is the thing about your place on the board.
Your real competitors share your quadrant. They are also operating a customer intimacy strategy (see The Discipline of Market Leaders), competing to deliver the best overall value by way of creating strategic outcomes, value worth paying more to obtain. Your real competition is likely very good at what they do and very tough competition.
You are irrational when you decide to try to compete against your real competitors by adopting the approach of the quadrant caddy-corner to yours, the lower left quadrant.
Your irrational competitor isn’t irrational when they compete in their quadrant. In fact, they are quite rational to pursue and compete for those who don’t recognize a need for greater outcomes or who believe that lowest price is the only real value. They are only irrational when they try to compete in the upper right quadrant.
“But wait,” you say. “Sometimes our irrational competitor beats us for a prospective client that really wants the greater value we create.” There are a few things that may be true here: 1) You are mistaken, and the prospect belongs somewhere else on the board, 2) The prospect is mistaken and will soon learn the error of their way, or 3) You failed at helping your prospect understand where they are on the board and the difference in quadrants.
Pick up Seth’s new book (and one of my top two of his 19 books), This Is Marketing:You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn to See.