Bojago Philip James's Blog


Who is your competition?

Just who is your competition anyway? Is it the wine store down the block with really cheap prices, or that winery across the way with perfectly draining soil?

The execs at Coke did a good job when they began defining their market in terms of "Share of the Stomach." No longer was Pepsi their only nemesis, suddenly Campbell's Soup, Burger King, and bell peppers all became public enemy #1.

Chris Dixon, Co-Founder at Hunch, recently wrote about a quote that summarizes this perfectly for internet companies: "Your #1 competitor starting out will always be the BACK button, nothing else."

In my role at Snooth, I have been asked the competition question at least 50 times, and each time I say that same thing: We compete for users' attention (and if we sold anything, we'd be competing for their money, as well). People hate my response, and they expect me to list companies like Wine Spectator or Wine Advocate or Thrillist or Wall Street Journal or someone else, when that simply wouldn't be true.

It wasn't true when Snooth had 1,000 users, and it's not true now that we reach 10 million users per month. Our biggest issue has always been lack of recognition, or worse, ambivalence from users that we've managed to get to our homepage. Wine Spectator, great as it is, has obviously never captured 100% of the universe of wine lovers on the planet. For Snooth to get its first 1,000 users, let alone its 10 million users per month, we didn't have to win them from another wine resource. In fact when we survey our users the most common answer to "what other wine websites do you visit?" is "none."

It's the same for a winery, or a retailer. Your biggest problem is not the obvious competitor you've been eyeing warily, but the other distractions, causes and temptations that tug at the minds and wallets of your prospective customers.

That may make marketing sound like an impossibility, but remember this, the customers that chose to spend their money with you, did so above every other option in the world. You just need to figure out what it was that caused them to do that, and position yourselves for a repeat.

Comments (14) Trackbacks (1)
  1. I would agree 100%! As a small winery owner in a very rural area of far Northwest Wisconsin not used to wineries, we compete with many other venues including the beautiful environment in which we live. Because we are different and seemingly out of place, perhaps we have an edge in that regard. What we always keep in mind is that we are grateful to our customers for taking the time out of their busy day to stop in and see what we are up to, and we tell our customers how much we appreciate it! And we really do. We can never take time for granted, its here and its gone. Things left untended in the last moment may never come around again. Take the time to explore the world, be with friends, laugh, cry, and appreciate every moment that you spend with someone else and the moments they spend with you whether at your place of business or in your personal life. Each moment is a gift received and a gift given because there is always some place else to spend time.

  2. I think you have to be keenly aware of the competition, so humbly disagree with, “Your biggest problem is not the obvious competitor you’ve been eyeing warily”, though do agree with most of the rest ;) .

    Let’s look more at Coke. Coke is keenly aware of Pepsi and I’ve been at their presentations as they go through all their direct competitors by category – not the least is the Coke vs Pepsi in Carbonated Soft Drink category.

    Sure they have aggressively been gaining/maintaining market share in beverages – bottled water, fruit juice, energy drinks, and isotonic drinks (with suggestions they will enter the alcohol category). Sometimes they do a good job (water) sometimes they lose out (energy drinks) but they are keenly aware of the obvious competition – Pepsi.

    Snooth seems to be a combination of Comparison Shopping Engine (CSE), wine magazine, and wine blog. Each of these areas have ferocious competition.

    I won’t list all the CSEs other than to suggest that Google is a particular worry given its history of taking over internet categories – the CSE category in this case.

    Many wine magazines and blogs are also a worry given their superb content. Perhaps Wine Advocate is declining as its readership gets older but check out Wine Library TV and amongst a wealth of blogs. So in terms of the wine content category these blogs are also strong competitors. And I haven’t even mentioned the other goliath – facebook.

    Philip – I’d be worried about the obvious competitors, as well as competing for attention in a more general sense.

    Having said all that I’ll still be a fan of snooth, Gary V, Google (bless their socks), Coke and Red Bull…

  3. So true. Everyone seems to forget that getting a customer is the really hard bit of marketing, hanging onto them is easier so long as you are prepared to follow their interests, and stop them hitting that BAck button..
    We produce Namida Wasabi Spirit and we find that wasabi lovers – irrespective of their position in the food chain – form a large part of our “Share of the Stomach”.

  4. ‘In fact when we survey our users the most common answer to “what other wine websites do you visit?” is “none.”‘

    making a statement like that make me question whether you used a valid statistical sampling method. not only do i find that statement hard to believe, but it makes me question anything else you wrote in this post.

    finally, whenever i visit snooth (i visit plenty of other wine sites), i do so from clicking a link in an email that interests me. upon arrival, snooth then asks me if i would like to join your mailing list. which of course i am already on. it is very annoying.

  5. I have a favorite “Anytime” wine., And now is growing to have a lot more fans too. As I had my favorite 2 pubs get this wine in on as regular menu Item. Now it has becoming a growing favorite wine among all the local wine drinkers at these pubs. Its A white german wine, called Black Tower. Not to sweet or dry. Just right!

  6. @Paul R – I’m glad you asked. We didn’t use statistical “sampling”, as we’re not giving confidence intervals, so that’s not relevant here, however, we did survey our users and we received over 5,000 responses. I talk more about the survey here:

    Another data point, which I find representative: Snooth used to send some traffic to Wine Searcher. We’re the #1 and #2 wine sites globally by size, so you’d expect some significant overlap. In fact over 75% of the traffic we sent to Wine Searcher was comprised of new users to them.

  7. Bruce – I don’t mean to suggest that there is no competition, but more that it is often not who you expect it to be.

    When the railroads were supplanted by the automobile the rail barons mistakenly assumed they were in the railroad business, when they should have realized they were in the transport business.

  8. Perhaps you’re right Philip, that the competition is not “who you would expect it to be”".

    I guess what I’m saying is that the competition is a confusing Potpourri of competitors one day, and partners the next. And that those competitors are most of the time direct, and some of the time from left field.

    To take your analogy – if the railroad owners were to say they are in the transport business but ignore the railroad business then they would be in trouble in the short term with some very vicious “robber barons”. In fact even in the long term they were not in trouble from roads until the highways were built all over America in the mid 20th century (ignoring the Great Depresssion). So they enjoyed almost a century of wealth.

    So the question is are you too focused on the future? And are other “railway barons” knocking on your rhetorical door… Actually perhaps it’s a question I should be asking myself come to think of it ;) .

    Lastly kudos to the Chief Wasabi Maniac – who could think of a better title than that!

  9. I had heard Obama quote something similar when talking about the differences in opinion between he and former-primary-competitor, now running mate, Joe Biden. He said that he wanted to surround himself with people other than yes-men, so he could hear and debate thoughts different from his own.

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