Honing in on your true brand competitors, rather than the entire competitive landscape, can help you decide when to pivot versus when to double down on your strategy. 

For our purposes, let’s define a true brand competitor as one that vies with you for ideal opportunities, or is emerging as a new alternative. Your ideal opportunities could include an attractive project, a new team member, or a strategic partnership. 

If you ‘always’ or ‘never’ beat a rival brand, I would argue that they aren’t really your competitor. And every brand either has rivals or will have them soon — Zepbound is coming for you, Wegovy

To be considered a true competitor, a brand needs to be in your league and vice versa. So, who are yours? These are a few fast ways to find out.

Review your recent wins and losses.

Which ideal opportunities — people, projects, or partnerships — have you won or lost in the last six months? Do you know the runners up in the instances where you won? Do you know who won those opportunities that you lost? And why they won (beyond price)

If you don’t already know, now is the time to ask. Don’t be afraid to go to the source. If a prospect can’t or won’t share the details of why you weren’t selected, it may be a sign that you weren’t a serious contender. Once you have a list of the winners and runners up, look for repetition and patterns. Which names arise most frequently, and for which types of projects?

Survey your current customers. 

If you’re wondering why a particular product or service offering is (or isn’t) faring well, ask your current customers a few key questions using a simple tool like Typeform. What do we do better than most? What don’t we do as well? And who do you turn to instead for those services?

Google your core product or service in your key geographies. 

It may be imprecise, but the advertisers, organic listings, and news articles you see when you search for your core offerings in your key geographies, i.e. “hot yoga indianapolis,” are similar to the ones your customers will see. You may not agree with what Google serves up, but this is how the algorithm, and by extension your early-stage prospects, view your true competitor set. Pro tip: log out of your Google account or search in incognito mode so your user profile and search history don’t affect your results.

Look deeper on Linkedin.

LinkedIn is good for more than just recruiting – and stalking whoever you’re meeting for coffee tomorrow. On a desktop browser, type your company name into the search bar then look for a right-hand column with the heading “People also viewed.” For “KPMG,” the search results (unsurprisingly) indicated that people also viewed: Deloitte, EY, PwC, Accenture, McKinsey & Company, and JP Morgan Chase.

Ask ChatGPT.

If your brand is well-established, you can simply ask ChatGPT, “Who competes with [my brand]?” When I tried this query for the fashion brand Free People, a popular bohemian fashion retail brand, it returned these competitors: Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Zara, Forever 21, H&M, and Boohoo. Maybe not a perfect list, but it passes the sniff test. To take it a step further, you could then query the same question using each competitor’s brand name to generate a secondary tier.

You know your true competitors, now what?

Once you have a short-list of your true competitors, you can dive deeper into each one to understand your meaningful differences, adjust your positioning, cut your losses in areas you aren’t likely to succeed, and focus on your competitive advantages. You could find that you need a small tweak, a significant course correction, or even a wholesale rebrand.

For example, a few years ago when we analyzed our own competitor set, we realized that we were best at strategic rebranding and less effective at content marketing – so we shifted our focus. This has allowed us to streamline our process, build-out our team of branding experts, and deepen our thought leadership content, resulting in higher profile projects.

You can also use your competitor set as a gauge of your progress. If your positioning is clear, your messages are compelling, you deliver better than your competitors, and you’re staying a step ahead of new developments, you will start taking on stronger rivals.

Before you can understand your relative positioning, you need to know who your true competitors are.


Ready for a brand that will help you compete?