Compete by Not Competing

It is interesting that sometimes the fiction created in Hollywood offers great business advice, but here is a great piece of advice and a real life business success to go with it.

One evening before an important fight, Mr. Miyagi, the Martial Arts Master in "Karate Kid" counseled his student, "Danielson, the best way to not get hit is not to be there." Wal-Mart is now the textbook example of this competitive strategy of competing by not competing. When Wal-Mart was a young company they would not go into the same markets as Kmart. They went to markets where competitors were smaller and the big guys couldn't hit them. They did not go head-to-head with Kmart until they had the purchasing power to do it well.

If one mosaic artist's revenue is primarily from mosaic classes and another specializes in architectural installations, there is probably not much competition that takes place - no problem. But, what about two or more teachers, or two or more of anything else. Additionally, mosaic artists may face competition from other visual artists. A decorator with an art budget may be less concerned about the art media than the space being decorated, thus creating competition between all artists.

So how does your mosaics business not compete with others?

First. Realize that competition takes place in a lot of different arenas. Some of them are:

  • Revenue channel i.e. teaching, residential commissions, etc. 
  • Geography served
  • Pricing
  • Style
  • Marketing channels used - i.e. word of mouth, social media, search engines, etc.
  • Customer demographics and psychographics – i.e. age, income, gender, interests, etc.
  • and so on

Second. Examine the potential rivals to determine what arenas they are competing in. Those are revealed in what they say, don't say, do and don't do. For example you learn:

  • all of them say they teach beginners
  • one says they make it fun
  • half of them have good websites (pictures of classes, email subscription forms, descriptions of classes, online enrollment, etc.)
  • half of them have phone or email enrollment with minimal information on their website
  • none of them have a Facebook profile
  • their locations are dispersed all over the market area
  • and their 1 day classes are all priced within a few dollars of the others 

Third. Make a graphic representation of what you have learned. Sometimes these are called Strategy Canvases and can be made using any spreadsheet application. The canvas can be interpreted to suggest that there is little to any competition for courses that address the needs of intermediate and advanced mosaic art students, but to compete for beginning students will require a more creative offering. "Fun" is not being used as an attractive characteristic of classes. Making a very user friendly website, with ample calls to action, and maybe an online chat function will be a plus. Developing a strong social media following of mosaic artists will be an effective and different way to reach the audience. And, since the students are intermediate to advanced, the price competition will be less relevant allowing for a somewhat higher price.

Fourth. Incorporate your strategy into the canvas. For example: One business is not competing with another business in 3 of the most important arenas like  product, marketing, and pricing; but it has identified an arena where it can deliver a better customer experience, like their website, then that is a good avoidance strategy.

Fifth. Develop the products, processes and marketing that support the competition avoidance strategy.

You can apply this method to any mosaic business, or other business for that matter. This is a simple example, but with a little thought you can make it more elegant when needed.

It is often said that competition is good. Well, it is good for the customer. There are only two ways to deal with the competition – discounting or differentiation. Discounting is rarely good for any small business, so don't do it. Instead, differentiate yourself!


  • Excellent. Should be of good use for evaluation of own practices and to make changes where beneficial. Thanks Louj Ann.

    Hank Kuhlmann
  • I loved this article. Great advice.

    Hardiman Judy
  • Great article!

    Sharon Tepe

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