Monday, June 5, 2017

Really Know Your Competitors

The biggest takeaway this week came for me when reading “Competitor Analysis: Understand Your Opponents.”   At my organization, we often talk about our competitors and how they are our competition, but we do not really ever do a deep divide to discuss what makes them our competitors.  In my work, we absolutely have competitors in that they provide the same services that we do.  But after the reading this article, I’m thinking about those competitors differently.  While we do provide the same type of financial capability and homeownership counseling services, we have different targets for recipients of these services.  The challenge for us internally is understanding our competitors from the perspectives of both of the audiences we collectively try to reach. Our primary audience is service beneficiaries, and how we reach our target is by positioning ourselves as the organization that will meet their needs.  And over the next 18-24 months, we are going to be launching a plan to meet those needs through enhanced technology. From this perspective, our competition is minimal. 

However, the real competition for us is in reaching the funding community, which is our secondary audience.  While there are different audiences we could be reaching for our core services, this same depth does not exist in the funding community.  Much of our corporate support comes from the financial sector looking to satisfy their CRA obligations, and those obligations are defined at certain investment amounts, with many different organizations attempting to receive those investments.  Additionally the local philanthropic community, only has so many grant dollars available and organizations that provide similar services to ours as well as other nonprofit organizations seeking grant support.  So what can we do?  Three of the elements of competitor analysis particularly struck me as applicable for approaching our secondary audience:
  1. Positioning: we need to better construct the way the funding community sees us and the work we do.  We can accomplish this through a better external communication plan that focuses on client outcomes, rather than programmatic outputs.  We need the funding community to see us as an organization that has impact.
  2. Aggression Factor: social enterprise and self-sustaining revenue sources are a significant topic of conversation within the industry currently (as reflected at every conference I have attended in the last two years). The organization has the opportunity to be more aggressive about entering into this endeavor.  We have the opportunity to do so, we just need to do it well and be successful with it. 
  3. Determine Strategies and Objectives of Our Competitors: Part of the success in fundraising is communicating what makes your project unique and the scope of the impact that will be seen across the community being served.  Understanding what  our competitors are trying to do and how they are doing it, will help us understand what makes us unique and different when approaching funders.
Through an application of the three techniques mentioned above, my organization can better craft and implement its strategy to reach its audience.  

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