Ask The Readers: Should You Be Intimidated by Competition, or Just Go For It?

Get your thinking caps on. Today I’m going to ask you a question that hopefully you’ve asked yourself from time-to-time.

How do you know if you should enter a market, or if there is too much competition already?

I’m asking specifically about starting websites and blogs. I’m sure you’ve wondered about this yourself already. How do you know if you should jump in, or look for other opportunities?

I can’t wait to hear your answers in the comments below.

The idea for this post came from Shane Ketterman who sent me an email last week with this:

When you originally left for Mexico that first time and came back with the idea of starting Think Traffic, were you intimidated at all by the sheer volume of sites out there talking about “how to get traffic”, etc. or did you just figure you would add your own angle and go for it?

Here’s what I responded with:

Nearly every site, and I mean 99.999% of sites out there, were spewing the same bullshit. I’m even talking about some of the “big guys.” I knew there was a market for a totally transparent, fundamentals-based approach.

Sometimes you just have to have confidence in your ability to out-execute and deliver more value than your competitors.

This answer isn’t right for everyone in every situation, but that’s exactly how I felt about starting this site.

In any case, you’ll need to think hard about the competition and your ability to not only out-execute, but also to differentiate your site in a compelling way.

This post isn’t about me though. It’s about hearing what you have to say.

Last Month’s “Ask The Readers”

Last month I asked you why most websites fail.

There were over 50 fantastic answers. Thanks for your participation. This was an awesome discussion, so go check out all the answers if you haven’t already. There is a lot of wisdom there.

The top reasons people listed were unrealistic expectations, lack of planning, poor visitor experience, lack of longevity, lack of differentiation, lack of passion and lack of focus.

These are all good answers, but not the #1 reason in my mind.

My favorite answers came from a few people. Daniel Roach and John Muldoon in particular answered with something along these lines.

To me, the #1 reason websites fail is because the sites aren’t useful enough.

The sites don’t solve a problem or address a need or desire in a strong enough way. If you do that, all of the other stuff (expectations, planning, longevity, passion, focus, etc.) become much less important and much easier to fix where necessary.

If you want to discuss this one more, please head over to the original post and leave a comment there.

Back to this week’s question. Let’s hear it:

How do you know if you should enter a market with your website (or start a blog on a certain topic), or if there is too much competition already?

Leave a comment below and let us know how you deal with competition.

Published by

Corbett Barr

Corbett is cofounder of Fizzle, a place for creative entrepreneurs, writers, makers, coders and artists, all working to support themselves doing what they love independently on the Internet. Follow Corbett on on Twitter.

43 thoughts on “Ask The Readers: Should You Be Intimidated by Competition, or Just Go For It?”

  1. Great question Corbett. This has been on my mind as well. I think it boils down to one thing:


    Do you have the guts to get out there, put everything you’ve got into it and fail? Will you learn from your failures and mistakes and not give up? Even when you feel like your spinning in circles and going nowhere?

    Do you have the guts to look at the problem and find a new angle to hit it from that you think will get you laghed off the web?

    1. Hey there Daniel –

      Love that. Guts.

      I asked Corbett this because I was genuinely interested from the perspective of an entrepreneur like Corbett who has had great success and also from the perspective of someone that knows about competition (me) from getting my MBA – which is vastly different than the online world.

      I love your answer too. It takes guts but it also takes the ability to be different and commit to it, which is where 99% of people stop :)

  2. I say just go for it. Competition is good. It means people are making money. Getting into a really competitive market takes guts but also strategy. Having a well defined unique selling proposition is key. Being another “me too” blogger or website just won’t cut it anymore.

    Fitness. Health. Money. Business. Dating. Relationships.

    If you get into any one of these, the question is not whether or not you’ll make money, but how much. Ask yourself, How are you different? What’s your angle? And most importantly, how are you going to HELP the audience you attract?

    With all of that said, making money in highly competitive markets take a lot of work, time and effort. But like I said, if you really want it. Screw it. Jump right in. =)

    1. Hector,

      Awesome! I like the being different part. In my talk at Blog World, that is one thing I really tried to drive home is what is called “POD” or Point Of Differentiation. It’s that ability to take something everyone else is doing and find out what they are NOT doing…..and in most cases you can dig out something that they are not doing….or not doing well.

      And in Steve Jobs fashion…ask yourself, “How can I make this better?” and then do it.

  3. After blogging in a very crowded niche (personal finance) for five months now I have been contemplating this very question lately.

    The conclusion I’ve come to is that competition enough is not a reason to stop what you are doing. It is extremely rare to be completely new and enter a market that is a empty void full of opportunity.

    Competition can be scary, but it is also a GREAT sign that there is a market for what you are trying to do.

    Instead of playing copycat to what is available from my competition, I am going to take a completely different approach that I am working on to really stand out to the people I am working to reach and help.

    I say: Go for it.

    1. Caleb,

      Precisely. I love that you think that way. It’s what spawned my question to Corbett :)

      There is an approach and a book called The Blue Ocean Strategy which says that instead of having a bloody battle competing and entering a race to the bottom – look at your niche and instead, create an entirely new conversation or approach that doesn’t yet exist within that space.

      Many people have done this. They take a crowded space, and carve out an entirely new place for that market to “hang out” instead of just competing and waiting for traffic…

  4. I think this week’s answer comes partly from last week’s answer.

    I completely agree with this: “To me, the #1 reason websites fail is because the sites aren’t useful enough.”

    Using that logic to answer this week’s question:
    Should you be intimidated by competition?

    Not if you plan on being better than they are.

    I don’t mean “better in your mind” or “my mom thinks my site is the best”. I mean, building the most helpful, open, transparent site that can possibly be built. Build something so good that it can’t be ignored. If you care more and put in more effort and help more people, you shouldn’t be afraid of competition, and you shouldn’t be afraid of failure, either, because that is the recipe that works.

    Glad you liked my thoughts last week, Corbett. I really enjoyed everyone’s perspective. These ask the readers posts always make me think.


  5. Hey Corbett,

    This is a great question and I fear this is what is holding most aspiring entrepreneurs back. I witness that myself many times. I can’t even count the business ideas I didn’t go after even though they might have had potential. The reason was always the same. I was not the first to have that idea and the market was crowded already.

    I have come quite a long way until now and what I learned is this: Stop thinking about the competition! Do your thing, do it the best you can. If you your idea is as good as you believe it to be, you hustle more then anyone else in your field and you care more about the customer you’ll win.

    Just take a look at any business you find online – no matter if it is Facebook or a travel blog. Take a look at those and judge for yourself if you as a customer / user are truly satisfied with the service. If you are not chances are good that you are not along with your judgment. And there it is your unique selling proposition.

    So, I’d say stop worrying about competition – but also make sure you do your homework. The idea you are after needs to be worth the effort and you need to see a market for your product.

    – Philipp

    1. Hi Phillip,

      Another angle on this is to see can you serve customers better than others.

      That takes competition out of the equation. Instead you look at YOU can deliver and base your efforts on this.


    2. Hey Ivan,

      This is just how I do it: I normally don’t think of people in the same niche as competitors. I just on’t compete. Instead I do my own thing the best I can and let readers, audience, clients etc. decide whom they want to go with.

      I’ve learned that in many cases it isn’t A or B. Clients tend to pick parts from here and other parts from there. So if I’m not the number one choice for service I might as well be for something else.

      Thanks for the reply!

    3. Philipp –

      I am the same actually…have a ton of ideas I have never pursued because I figured it was already being done or had been done. And you know what? I am finding that most people just talk big. And behind the scenes they aren’t actually “doing” anything more than speculating….so in fact, if I actually acted on my ideas, I would have found that I could have had great success.

      Lesson learned: Act on your ideas because what you feel has been done might just be very thinly veiled attempts at “done” 😉

    4. So true. Many times it is just great design and big words making the difference. In those cases it is well worth entering a market even though it already SEEMS crowded. But you also need to be realistic and choose your battles wisely.

      Wouldn’t it be great to see a list of all the businesses that people had n mind but that never got off the ground? I bet that there are some real jewels in such a list.

      Sorry for the late reply,

    5. Sorry for the late reply back 😉

      Yeah, it would be great to see that…I envision a huge stockpile of ideas with no action. See, what I see happening all over the place is a bunch of advice and very excited people but no action being taken…there is a disconnect between “excitement to create vs. doing the work”…if that makes sense?

  6. It depends on the amount of dedication you have.

    If you choose a heavily populated niche, your going to need to invest a lot of time and work in order to make it successful.

    However, if you chooses to go into a scarcely populated niche, you will needs to invest less time in it as there will be less competition.

    Although, I believe if there is a topic you are passionate about, you should not be daunted by competition because if you opt out of going into that niche, you will never be quite has happy.

  7. I think it is natural to feel intimidated when there is a lot of competition in a niche. I know I’ve had the feeling a number of times where I think of an idea for a blog, find out someone else is already doing it, and I get discouraged.

    I’ve come to realize this is the wrong mindset. Competition is good because it means there is a market of people interested in your topic. I would much rather see lots of competition than no competition at all. I think it is much easier to coexist and thrive with the competition than it is to create a market from nothing.

  8. Competition is a sign that there’s a market for you.

    To tap into that market, though, you need to offer something that no one else is putting out there.

    In my case, there are tons of parenting blogs out there, but very few of these blogs offer advice and guidance on how to be a better parent and raise happier children. I feel I have a great chance of success because I’m offering concrete, useful advice to people, advice that generally isn’t out there.

    1. Hi there Dave,

      Awesome example of that conclusion I came to which is to take a new twist or rather provide value where others are not yet providing it. Here is an example…I see a ton of posts on the fact that irresistible email subject lines are crucial to get the email read….but I didn’t see a post that shows you “how” to construct one with examples of good and bad….

      I try to keep this in mind: people search the web for something they want…or rather to solve a problem and I love what you are doing because it goes right into helping!

  9. Great question!

    Like the old saying goes, “you can’t out Amazon, Amazon.”

    If you are going to go against a big competitor that is doing a decent job, then you can’t do they same things they do. You have to take a different focus, come at it from a different angle or find a new business model.

    Trying to copy established players is foolish but there is always room for people with authenticity, talent, work ethic and personality as Corbett has proved.

    1. John

      It’s true that if you were going up against someone like Amazon you’d be almost doomed to failure.

      Far better if that’s the market you’re aiming at to ‘buddy up’ with them. A great example of this is Seth Godin’s THE DOMINO PROJECT. If you can come up with a creative idea that works in tandem with a ‘big boy’ then you get to let their muscles do the heavy lifting.


  10. Hi Corbett,
    When I started my blog, not too long ago, I had a lot of problem with two things. One, I couldn’t find any blogs specifically tailored to helping new bloggers, who are ‘hobby’ bloggers. I mean sure, there are fantastic writing blogs, copywriting ones, marketing and SEO ones, ones to help you make money and great traffic ones as well. 😉 but are there good ones to go to if you want to do it for ‘therapeutic’ purposes of writing? Secondly, I didn’t know where the good blogs were and how to let likeminded people know that I exist. And this question would have been answered by the same blogs as well.

    Now I am a learning freak. I am happy to sit all day long looking for information, web and books being my top favourite mediums. If I was having trouble finding relevant info for new bloggers, imagine thousands of people who start their blogs everyday. They are not ready to pay for a service yet, they are not ready to look at blogs which cater for slightly advanced needs. They don’t necessarily want to jump into info re monetizing their blog. Maybe that’s not even something they want to do. They just want to have a successful blog as they sit fit.

    So basically like what they say, if you see a need, fill it. That’s what I am trying to do. This is a need in my mine, a place to inspire and motivate hobby bloggers.

    I don’t know if I am naive or too optimistic or both but I am extremely passionate about it. Incidentally, two of my friends started their blogs around the same time, and my dad is about to start his. Guess what, with their time constraints, they have trouble finding blogs who would help their specific need and answer their questions, how to have a great ‘hobby’ blog.

    I am also a mom, student so the thing limiting me at the moment is time. Still, every second of the, I spend thinking, reading and breathing blogging. I will keep going until I have exhausted all avenues of learning and moving forward. This is just a start for me, guest posting is my next step (if I can get any heheh) .. no one knows what the future hold eh? :)

  11. I have to say the right answer lies in a mix of what John Muldoon and John Bardos have said.

    You need to be original/unique/different but you also have to be useful.

    If you’re one or the other you’re missing half the ingredients. Putting out great content is superb work, but if you deliver it the same way as everyone else how will you be noticed?

    If you’re your blog is “outside the box” taking on problems at different angles people will notice. But will they stick around if your content sucks?

    The other factors people mentioned are important: competition, strategy, commitment, courage, etc. But you should first ask yourself, “Is something missing here?” Yes. “Can I write epic shit about it?” Hell yes. “Can I deliver it like no one else?…”

  12. As a former/recovering/future writer, I remember we writers used to go into bookstores and have one (or both) of these thoughts:

    1.) Man, look at all of these books! How are we ever going to get a book published with all of this competition? They must all be superstars. Sigh.

    2.) Man, look at all of these books! If they can do it, we can do it. They all started somewhere, too.

    After thought #1 we’d get a beer and drown our depression. After thought #2 we’d get a coffee and get busy.

    One thing I’m looking for inspiration and guidance for recently (from guys like you, Corbett!) is the longer-term strategy. Great, you “get busy” and write like mad. Cool, but after 6 months, what’s your plan? You’ve been published in magazines and newspapers, working on your book, but where are you in your strategy, in your planning? Are you on step 1 of 10, step 7 of 10, or step 142 of 1,000?

    So my question for you, Corbett, is how do you “plan”? Or strategize or map out a business plan or an editorial calendar? Or do you? Or do you have a goal and strive for it and it doesn’t matter how you get there?

    Thanks for posting and inspiring.

    1. Bradley,

      Totally on board with #1 and #2!

      I’d like to continue this conversation with you at the WP Meetup next Tuesday (which you should consider attending, Corbett!). I have a few vague, ill-formed notions on “failing fast” you might be able to help me clarify. Ought to make a great blog post once I get it figured out.

      Corbett, I’m also interested in Bradley’s question about longer term strategy. Most IM seems, to me, to be a hyperactive race to find the low hanging fruit. To pillage the market. Pillaging doesn’t build healthy ecosystems. This would be worth a good long blog post.

  13. Great great question!

    You know up until last year I started (not to mention as a way to promote it), but to tell you that I honestly ONLY started it based on the need. Meaning, I tested some things out, studied the competition…

    And no one really provided what I did – and it made money since day one (turning away more business than I decided to initially take on).

    Now I’m not going to say everything is easy, but no other person that writes copy does what I do, has my kind of background and provides the level of service I do. Using it as a way to help clients one-on-one, I going to be moving towards more of an online business model…

    But I notice a TON of things from my 10 previous years of fuckups and failures. It’s that people fall too much in love with an idea, and think that just “a great idea” will make money. It doesn’t until you find what people respond to, then grill the HECK out of the few people respond to, asking things like, “I’m just curious, why did you choose me? What was different about me than everyone else?” Things like that and…

    Then you start to see who your ideal market is… then you just scale what works (and stop what doesn’t work).

    I know it sounds a bit over-simplistic, but sometimes people fall short over what people actually are willing to pay for (versus just a “great idea” that no one will). And then, it’s just up to you on how long or not you want to wait and kill/change something that isn’t working.

    I guess that’s the hard part. How long to persist.

    1. “It’s that people fall too much in love with an idea, and think that just “a great idea” will make money.”

      I know this feeling, and from how you’re writing, Jared, I suspect you know it as well.

      Answering Corbett’s original question, I say “Go for it!” Failing is ugly and painful, just no fun at all, but for most people, it’s inevitable so just going for it and getting that experience built seems best.

      I just got back from watching Daniel Ha (Disqus) speak. His advice: focus on how you serve the market, not on the competition.

    2. Nice Dave! I love it.

      “Focus on how you serve the market, not on the competition.” Well well said.

      That’s so important – and a great great point. Also I think it’s important to not be scared in who you really are (in relation to your target market). You know?

      I guess for me, I serve more business professionals (women entrepreneurs to be more specific). They’re very passionate and very emotional and very into being authentic. But earlier I went a bit over the top passionate – to the point I scared some away.

      Listening and seeing how your target market reacts to the things you say… I think it’s really important. People are buying YOU (and your product). You know?

      I think people should never be scared to be themselves – we’re moving into a more humanistic view of business (and the bigger point of this in regards to your competition)… no one can EVER compete with who YOU are.

      Yes there’s always competition, but I really believe people compete more with themselves than anyone else. Let it go. Be you. And you’ll eliminate any of the other competition.

      While that may seem a bit hokey-pokey over the top spiritual… but it just seems to be true.

      You know? Some great points you brought up Dave!

  14. Nice point to bring up here, C…

    I’m not at all, in any way, shape or form concerned with competition. In fact, it took one of my employees to tell me that one of our competitors at Live2Sell had blatantly copied our ENTIRE homepage layout on their new website. Why? Because I never look at competitors websites! If you’d like to compare, check this out:

    Our site:
    Their site:

    Element for element. Nothing we can do really, as they didn’t copy any ‘content’, by man… The BALLS they have! :-) But, honestly, I’m not concerned. They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery… so, thanks Global Sky – I’m flattered. I hope the new layout is working out for you… It’s been doing great for us – for TWO YEARS!

    I think a lot of people get wrapped up in ‘watching’ the competition. Thats just foolish. You should be spending time developing new products and services, and making a different to your customers lives. Not wasting time ‘spying’.

    And when it comes to blogs… You’re right… They are spewing out the same BS. That’s one of the reasons why I am MYSELF on my blog. And incorporate a lot of video… Even though I have a big business offline and am in the ‘corporate world’, on my blog what you see/get is the real Chris.

    And you should know that – we’ve spent enough time together in person!!! :-)

    Go do something AWESOME people, and stop worrying about competition. That word is overrated, I reckon.


    1. Chris, this is a great example of how silly someone looks when they just copy their competition.

      Maybe the answer is that people who fear their competition will often copy it (and fail to stand out), while those who don’t fear their competition will go out and crush it.

    2. Hey Chris –

      Copying never works. People think you can copy success and you can’t. Look at Microsoft. They are still trying to copy the iPhone. Meanwhile…Apple releases the iPad and blows past yet another market….

      Besides that, you cannot duplicate anything. You can emulate it but you cannot duplicate the original because there is more there than a “sales page” or a “service”… have culture baked in and that simply cannot be duplicated.

  15. On first glance at competition, people do one of three things. 1. Copy. 2. Run a mile. 3. Innovate. As long as you are part of group 3. You will be fine.

    I also think that you shouldn’t see other sites as competition, but rather complimentary sites. You can learn from them, they can learn from you, as long as you provide useful and relevant content for your audience, that they can find, you are going to make a difference.

    Remember, Bruce Learn said “Absorb what is useful, Discard what is not, Add what is uniquely your own” …

    Don’t be scared by competition, it’s just another excuse for inaction. Remember all the big blogs that you admire started with a single post, and a brand new domain…

    1. This is so true, Chris.

      We struggled for 6 months on how to differentiate ourselves from similar websites.

      It all boiled down to figuring our how we could be different – brainstorming with friends really helped us out and that’s where the innovation came in.

      I was really scared (and sometimes still am) entering the niche we’re in because there’s a couple of well established sites who dominate, but now i view them as complimentary as you’ve said. Even better, with persistence and smarts, we’re topping them for several keywords.

      And yet, it wasn’t until we really set out in a planned way to discover how to make ourselves different that it the possibilities just opened themselves wide.

      You’ve gotta do the work -the hard thinking work- rather than be scared by inaction.

  16. If you have an ounce of originality about you, know of what you speak of, and give generously, then competition isn’t an issue. Period.
    I totally agree with Chris, that people get obsessive over watching the competition, and that in itself is demoralising, and self destructive.
    While your busy expending energy focusing on what your competition is doing, you aren’t paying attention to you’re audience & satisfing their needs and wants.

  17. Hey Corbett,

    Well, first off if a niche has a lot of competition, I figure that means it must be pretty profitable for at least some of those guys in it.

    For anyone starting out in blogging or IM or whatever I think there’s a lot to be learned from checking out what is obviously working for your competitors and then putting your own slant on it. I’m not advocating 100% plagiarism (see Chris’ post above) but just absorbing and learning from success. Personally, I’m always referring back to your post on
    USPs when I need inspiration for how I’m going to create my own branding to stand out among the herds.

    On the flip side, if you are lucky enough to find a niche with no competition at all I figure there’s usually a reason for that! There are millions of other hustlers out there and if they don’t see enough value in a niche to get into it then it could be that it isn’t worth investing in. But once again, that’s where your USP might make a difference and turn boring, low traffic niche into something that might generate some interest, maybe by linking it to another, more competitive niche.

    I guess at the end of the day it’s all about what you can do to stand out in the crowd.

    Cheers, Tim

  18. I think that there should only be one thing that matters before starting a blog. Although competition is extremely important, I think that it all boils down to how passionate you are about your topic. I personally jumped into a “niche” that is considered over saturated but the level of passion I had for the topic along with my confidence that I could share information that others couldnt has helped me make a name for myself. Although it may have taken more work and dragged out longer for me to become recognized than some other less saturated topic, my passion for mine allowed me to continuously work without feeling like it was work.

  19. Hey Corbett, that’s a really good question.

    I think that for the most part, competition is a good thing – it means that people are interested in your subject area, and that you will have platforms to interact with and easily find your audience, because competitors have done a good job of aggregating them for you.

    I think that the key is to find an industry that is large and growing, and to find a niche within that industry that is under-served, in the sense that you’re adding something that others would find valuable to the conversation.

    Does that make sense?

  20. That is a very interesting question Corbett. I enjoyed reading the comments and I agree to most of the posts. One of my most favorite quotes about success is this: “Success is not about outperforming others who outperformed you, but rather, it’s about outperforming what you have performed.” So, in order to become successful in a market that has an overwhelming competition, you just have to be yourself and focus on your own performance. Another saying that this post has reminded me is this: “Keep your friends closer, you enemies closest.” I’m not totally saying you make enemies. lol. I’m pertaining to the ones you are having competition with. Instead of being intimidated, why not become more interested? When you build relationship with your competition, especially to those who have the same interest as yours, you will surely go further and learn more. This way you can improve your skills and outperform your own and without you even noticing it, you may outperform others unintentionally..

  21. It does sound like a good ides to check what level of competition is out there before one stars a new blog or a website but in many instances lot of people just get too much discourage and just leave their project. If I would have stared a blog about “How To Get Traffic” I would have given up right as there is really a sheer volume of sites out there in that niche so when we started our career site I deliberately did not check out the competition till later stage when it would have been already too late to pull out and luckily it has worked out very well.

  22. Attention: Chris Ducker

    Hi Chris, I just had to tell ya! I clicked on the link of your competitors site and I just started laughing. I grew up playing baseball in a little town in Utah with James Stenson, the CEO of GlobalSky. He bailed town when we were all in college and no one has heard from him since. Hahaha guess I know what he’s up to now. Small world.

    Also for the first time, my neighbor and I here in Vegas started chatting today. I had no clue he was interested in small business. To be brief, he said he’d been listing to a really good podcast online. I asked him who it was. He couldn’t think of the name right then, so he just said “It’s a guy with a cool accent.” I laughed and then said your name. He looked at me in shock and said “You know him too?” The Internet is powerful. Keep up the good work.

  23. I think here applies something that Gary Vaynerchuk told me the other day. Although this wasn’t what I asked him, his answer covers this too. He said: “The answer is simple; know what the hell you’re talking about.”

    You have no reason to be afraid of your cometition or think that you won’t make it if you know what you’re talking about. And if you know what you’re talking about, well that just solves your doubt on whether or not the thing you want to do is it.

  24. Great question.

    Competition is healthy. It validates the market.

    From past experience I would rather have a small piece of a big pie than a large piece of a small pie. Small markets just don’t have the buying power.

    “It permits the sale to be this or that, not yes or no. And this or that is a much easier sale to make.” – Seth Godin.

    It also gives you an angle. If you can offer better price or performance wise, you can get a piece of the pie.


Comments are closed.