Industry: A form or branch of economic or commercial activity.
Market: A demand for a particular commodity or service.

(Google)

When we usually think of our competitors, we usually think of businesses which provide the same service as ourselves.

This is what we refer to as our industry – companies which provide similar products/services to us. These businesses are the ones we are in direct competition with.

It is from this stance that we assume the consumers’ needs. If they’re looking for a pen or a particular degree, then that’s what they need – or is it?

Understanding our customers and markets is a necessity to understand the arena we compete in.

What vs Why. Changing perspective

Through the presence of technology and social media, our customers are armed with more information.

Prompted, search is the main route for customers starting their buyer journey. Whether it’s typing a query into Google or asking Siri or Alexa.

Having content on your website which matches the search terms of customers i.e. ‘how much does a 2kg package cost to post’ or ‘recruitment agencies near Southampton’ is critical for driving traffic to our websites.

For example, having information about ‘how to get that dream job’ or the ‘10 best questions to ask at interview’, will support content marketing efforts for a recruitment agency.

Through various analytical tools, we have access to a wide range of data sources enabling us to plan effectively the type of content we need to create. Identifying the keywords we need to target and the distribution channels to aim for.

However, this blog isn’t going to focus on SEO, it’s about understanding our customers’ intent.

And that’s the challenge we face with this approach, we are focusing on ‘what are people searching for?’

It’s reactive. We are narrowing our perspective. We focus on creating solutions around this. But the data we have at our disposal enables us to understand the motives of our customers.

If, we have the right mindset to analyse it.

The question we should be asking is ‘why are people searching?’

To gain value from our portfolios and grow our consumer base, we must go beyond what is in front of us. We need to understand why people are searching for our services or products.

This is the difference between a market and an industry.

Defining your market

When we put ourselves in our consumer’s shoes and ask the question ‘Why?’ it will give us a different perspective.

To define a market we need to look at the reasoning as to why a consumer would need what we offer.

For example, if a customer is searching for a pen, we could just assume that they only want a pen and optimise our campaigns against other pen suppliers. Providing reasoning and promotions to incentivise and justify the superiority of our product.

That is our industry.

However, if we look behind the reasoning for why someone is searching for a pen. For example, one possibility could be it’s a luxury gift for someone. How many other options are there for a luxury gift instead of a pen?

We can immediately start building content around gift ideas for certain situations. Why one product is superior to another etc.

The fact we start to focus on the motivation behind the query, gives us the consumer’s perspective.

We can now start to understand the market we are operating in.

We can leverage this to make our materials far more engaging which discusses why a pen is a much more of a suitable gift compared to a wallet (for example).

Two completely unrelated items when you look at just the industry.

Brands such as Mont Blanc or Parker, don’t just operate in the luxury pen industry with their core product line, they operate in the luxury gift market.

Developments in the education sector, have resulted in colleges being able to offer degrees and online learning courses. Something which Higher Education institutions are now having to consider.

These institutions, originally, would never have been picked up on the HE competitor radar.

However, due to the nature of the changes to the education market and the reasons behind why and how people learn, this is the perspective we need in order to create a compelling narrative and offer.

The market is far larger than just comparing ourselves to other direct suppliers.

Understand the intent and purpose of a query, you begin to understand how many other options are available to customers.

It also allows us to gain a sense of who else could be operating in our market. Whether it’s a direct or indirect competitor.

That is the market.

This creates new opportunities for campaigns and paid media. It supports us in identifying new route-to-market approaches.

It can even give insight for potential updates to our portfolio; i.e. luxurious pen/stylus which can write on paper and tablets, or new online learning programmes.

Identifying your competitors

The reason for clearly defining our market is that it expands our potential customer base.

By changing the ‘what?’, to ‘why?’, we can use the same tools to gain a deeper insight into what is motivating our customers/students and how this could impact our strategy.

We must change our own perspective on who we view as our main competitors.

To do this, we need to change the questions we ask to inform our planning and decisions.

Below are a few examples:

EntityIndustry QuestionMarket Question
The customers’ intentWhat is my customer searching for?Why is my customer looking for this product or service?
Identifying competitorsWho else is offering a similar product/service?How else could this intent be satisfied?
Developing marcommsWhat makes our product/service superior in our industry?Why is this the best market option?

By changing the questions we use to identify our customers, it provides us with the direction required to seek out other invaluable insight, we may have otherwise missed.

It can help us to identify potential areas of growth and optimise our marketing efforts.

Share your thoughts

How do you identify your competitors?  Are there any companies out there which you think could be a significant threat to other industries?

Let me know in the comments below or tweet me @CJPanteny.

See you next time.

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