The subject of competition in inbound marketing has been popping up more frequently in recent discussions. As you'd expect, there are a wide range of viewpoints on this topic - from "there's so much competition it's getting harder to achieve success" to "we don't really have any competition".
Depending on your industry, there will be an underlying variance in the intensity of competition - for example, in my industry - inbound marketing - there is no shortage of competition because (nearly) everyone in it is an active practitioner of its strategies and tactics. In other industries, inbound marketing has yet to achieve critical mass and the early adopters continue to put great distance between themselves and their competitors.
The people I worry about the most are the ones who express the thought that they don't have competition - by virtue of something tangible like proprietary intellectual property or processes or some intangible attribute like "nobody does what we do" or "our customers love what we do for them".
In the Era of Google that can be a dangerous thought.
The current reality is your competition is just a search query away. Even though you may own patents that no one else has and your customers love the way you do what you do, there's nothing stopping a potential (or existing) client from typing up a query and opening up a whole world of choice.
A friend of mine has an insurance agency and we had this discussion recently. He's no stranger to marketing and in fact has been very active in its more traditional forms. He has yet to embrace inbound marketing and felt that his competition hadn't either. So we did the following Google queries:
Who are the best auto insurance agents in (his local area)?
Who are the best home insurance agents in (his local area)?
The top ten home insurance agents in (his local area)
Homeowners Insurance: Nationwide vs. Travelers in (his local area)
Homeowners Insurance Agents in (his local area): Reviews and Ratings
By the time we finished reviewing the results of the last query, he got real quiet. While he knew the companies coming up in search results - he's been in the business too long not to know - he didn't expect to see them as answers to questions being typed into Google. Questions that his clients and prospective clients ask every day.
If you haven't done this - or haven't done this recently, write down 5 to 10 variations of questions you frequently get in your business and run them through Google. You'll get your very own answer to the title of this post.