No competitors? Why no-one believes you…

264925781_ab5d0a1c8f_m.jpgCompetitors are a fact of life. Every business has them. In fact, there is no greater sign of entrepreneurial naivete than saying your idea/concept/venture is so unique it has no competitors.

Why? The practical (but slightly unhelpful) answer is no-one will believe you.

A more useful explanation for why you always have competitors is that business is about serving human needs …which are fundamentally constant.

Remember Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs? At the base level are our physiological needs, which we look to satisfy first. Then, as those are sated, we worry about safety, then belonging, then self-esteem, and finally (at the very top) self-actualization.

No-one’s about to invent a fundamentally new and radically different human need anytime soon. What does change, however, is HOW we satisfy those needs. And this is what business is all about.

For example, communication with other people is a fundamental need; it’s part of belonging. Once upon a time, that only happened face to face, first with signs, then with spoken language. Then someone invented writing and suddenly communication could span time and distance. Then printed books shook things up.Then the postal service, telegraph, newspaper, telephone, air travel, fax machine, internet, email, mobile phones, instant messaging, blogs, voice-over-IP, … the list goes on and on, at ever increasing pace.

So, how does your “unique” idea/concept/venture fit into all this?

Well, if it’s any good, you have found a way to serve a fundamental human need cheaper or better than the alternatives. Maybe you took away some of the time delay, made it easier to understand, reached customers with less expense, delivered a product more reliably, or something else again.

These are all valuable benefits that people will pay real money for. So by all means talk about the advantages of your new venture. Just remember that there are always alternatives, which means you always have competitors. They may not be direct competitors as you see it, but there are always other people competing to serve the same human need as you.

So, whatever you do, don’t tell people you have no competitors. Particularly investors. You’ll just look silly.

Photo: “Hmm… I don’t think so!” by  littledan77

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