5 Things You Need to Know About Competitors (And Why They Matter)

Today, I’m discussing competitors—more specifically the types you’ll come across and how to use your competition to your advantage.

Competition Is Healthy

We’ve been told from a young age that competition is healthy—and the same concept rings true here! If it weren’t for competition, no one would be holding you accountable except for yourself. It’s good for the public to have options and for you to rise to the occasion. 

By having competitors that do the same thing as you, ones that are in your industry but do things slightly differently, and competitors that are doing things very differently than you, you’re much more likely to push yourself to be the best. You want people to donate to y our cause or volunteer for your initiative and in order to do that, you have to win them over. 

But how do you do that? First, you have to understand your competition’s appeal. Then you can compare it to your own and see where your differentiator is. This is what you want to market to your audience. 

Before you do any of this, you have to start with who your competitors really are:

Your Direct Competitors

A direct competitor is someone who does the same job in the same way. So, if you are The Nature Conservancy, a direct competitor may be the WWF. You likely can name a few of these competitors off the top of your head. But, do a Google search for the cause you represent to see who else might be out there that you’re missing. Once you’ve identified 2-3 direct competitors, start doing more intense research on them and their approaches. Yes, you will have a lot in common but try to pull out a few ways in which you’re unique. This could be in your origin story, your team’s makeup, your location. Anything that helps you stand out from the others.

Your Similar Competitors

Similar competitors do the same job, just in a different way. For example, if you are the American Red Cross, a similar competitor might be the United Way. It’s easier to differentiate yourself from these competitors because you can talk about how your approach or tactics are different. It will still be helpful to do research to understand their approach and how, exactly, you’re different so you can use that in your storytelling and marketing efforts.

Your Indirect Competitors

Indirect competitors are the ones that do a different job with a different outcome. Oxfam and Charity Water both help alleviate poverty, but have different approaches and different outcomes—while still helping people in poverty. 

These competitors might be harder to identify because they’re less obvious. However, they’re just as important because they most likely compete for the same donor dollars or donor attention. Try broadening your search to your big goal. What is the overarching thing you’re trying to achieve? It could be reversing climate change or helping endangered animals. Search for those terms instead, and see what other organizations are doing for these causes. It will be easier to set yourself apart from these organizations, but having a firm grasp on who else is soliciting donations for your main cause is helpful in determining your own marketing strategy.

Your Industry Competitors

Last, we have industry competitors. These partners uphold the industry and have some competing content and resources. So, if you are Doctors Without Borders, other pharmaceutical and medical companies with philanthropic arms would be included as an industry competitor. While still competitors, these ones are the ones that will probably push you the most to be and do your best. Keep an eye on what they are creating, posting, and doing. Having a solid pulse on your industry and the major playmakers is key to your own success, too.

The moral of the story, here, is that we all have competitors of varying degrees but it’s how you handle your competition that will set you apart. Go through an exercise where you identify your competitors at each level, and then come up with a plan for how you’re going to outdo them…in a healthy, spirited way of course.