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If I say ‘competitors’ to you, I’m willing to bet that you think of people that offer similar things to you. So, Burger King would be a competitor to McDonalds, and Pepsi a competitor to Coke… right? Absolutely, these are direct competitors. If you want a take away burger, these will come to mind. But, what if you just want a take away, there are many more competitors there. And, what about cooking yourself? Or skipping dinner altogether? ~ Bryony Thomas, Author | Watertight Marketing

If people are comparing you against your direct competitors, they are already a long way down their path to purchase. They’ve already decided that they need to do something, they’ve figured that they can’t do it themselves, they’ve sussed that type of thing you offer is right for them, now they’re choosing between those that offer it. That’s a lot of thinking before your direct competitors enter the scene at all.

What about all those people who haven’t yet worked out that they need to do something, nor that doing it themselves isn’t gong to cut it, nor that your answer is a good one for them? There’s at least one competitor for each of these stages of thought…

Your Real Competitors

If your competitor reviews are only considering people that offer directly comparable things to you, you are missing a whole swathe of the buying journey, and almost certainly a whole swathe of potential customers. We work with clients to bring in what we call the Real Competitors to mix too (Watertight Marketing, second edition, p.83-4).


Real Competitors

A competitor for every step of a sale…

If we map this against a buying decision, it’s likely to look a little like this:



  • Competing against: Do it Yourself
  • Buyers’ Question: Why shouldn’t I sort this out myself?
  • Marketing Example: Benchmark report with 45-minute review – we’re looking for people that don’t have the capacity or skill to complete the strategic projects that meet their identified gaps.


  • Competing against: Alternative Solutions
  • Buyers’ Question: What are the ways I could resolve this?
  • Marketing Example: Resourcing marketing; Agency, employee or consultant? – we walk people through the options to determine if working with us is genuinely right for them.


  • Competing against: Direct Competitors
  • Buyers’ Question: Why are you better than those who offer the same?
  • Marketing Example: Number 1 best-selling book, with a methodology refined over a decade and tested across 2000 organisations – we’re demonstrating our credibility and results.


  • Competing against: Your Own Promises
  • Buyers’ Question: Am I getting what I was expecting?
  • Marketing Example: Refreshing the benchmark at intervals to show progress – we’re marking and visualising that they are seeing the impact they were expecting.


  • Competing against: All of the above
  • Buyers’ Question: Is this still the best option for me?
  • Marketing Example: Client review sessions at intervals, based on the refreshed benchmarks to direct to the next project, or that it’s time to move onto the next phase in their development.

A Comprehensive Competitor Review

Identifying and characterising these Real Competitors is a key strategic project when we’re developing a Complete & Compelling Proposition for our clients (Watertight Marketing, second edition, p.149-150). By understanding these competitors, you’re able to bring more people into considering working with you, rather than just those that have already determined that your type of solution is the right for them.

By Bryony Thomas, Author – Watertight Marketing

The Real Competitors is a framework used when we work on the First Flow Foundation – The Right Work. To find out if this is priority area for you, please take our 10 minute test to find out.

Bryony Thomas

Bryony Thomas

Author & Founder, Watertight Marketing

Bryony Thomas is the creator of the multi-award winning  Watertight Marketing methodology, captured in her best-selling book of the same name. She is one of the UK's foremost marketing thinkers, featured by the likes of Forbes, The Guardian, Business Insider and many more, and in-demand speaker for business conferences, in-house sales days and high-level Board strategy days.

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