Years ago, a senior leader at Pillsbury Company cited the fact that we had a 90+% share of the refrigerated dough market. We could all cheer. But of course, consumers didn’t buy refrigerated dough, they bought bread or cinnamon rolls or cookies, and their universe extended far beyond the refrigerated dough section. Maybe we had a 1-2% share of the broader baked goods market. And an infinitesimal share of the side-dish market. The revised perspective was good news: it meant there should be upside to the business. The bad news is that it was obvious refrigerated dough wasn’t the better choice. And the shrinking shelf set of refrigerated dough is evidence it’s even less of a preferred choice now.
All businesses need to keep an eye on competitors. “Direct” competitors are easiest to identify and keep an eye on. The “indirect” competitors tend to be out-of-sight & out-of-mind. Step back and consider who your customer would consider using to fulfill the “job” they need to do. Or better yet, ask your customers what other solutions for their need they might consider. Then dig into those tertiary competitors … how are they solving a problem or fulfilling the need differently? What could you do to fulfill that need through your product? Your strategic plans shouldn’t be only about competitors, but they should consider what you can learn from the full range of competitors.