Taking on Competition

Dealing with Competition
Competition is inevitable for businesses, whether they are for-profit or not-for-profit. Competition should be welcomed, as opposed to wishing they weren’t there. One reason is because it encourages you to do better in terms of customer service and what you can offer (promotions, lower prices, etc.). They can also give you some ideas of what to offer to your customers. In regards to competitors, many schools have exam review sessions similar to the Exam-AID sessions offered by SOS. These may be one-on-one sessions or other group review sessions offered by the school, or an external organization. For example, there is another organization called SOS Tutoring offered at York, McGill, U of T, Ryerson, Concordia and HEC Montréal. Some of these review sessions may be free, cheaper, or more expensive. Whatever or whoever the competition may be, there are always ways to deal with them.

Unique Selling Point (USP)
A Unique Selling Point, also known as USP, is something that your company does or your product has that others don’t. For example, TOMS Shoes donates a pair of shoes to someone in need. This gives consumers a reason to buy from them, as opposed to another store or brand.

SOS has former students as tutors. While this may sound like something unique, since other internal or external organizations may have professors instead, it’s not a big enough difference. The Unique Selling Point for SOS, and the reason why students should use our services instead of others, is that it’s volunteer based, and the money goes towards building schools in Latin America. Be sure to constantly (in moderation!) reiterate this. If students can’t decide which review session to join, they’re likely to choose SOS, because it’s student-run, and the money goes towards building school. They get two things for the price of one-help with their studying, and the feeling of giving.

A good way to distinguish what you do versus what your competitors do is by doing a SWOT analysis. SWOT is an acronym that stands for:

  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Opportunities
  • Threats

Strengths are what you do well. An example would be that we donate the money to build schools. Weaknesses are things that we don’t do so well. An example could be that we don’t offer enough courses. Opportunities are things that you have a chance to do. For example, you could offer more courses. Threats are something externally that could negatively affect business. For example, an organization that offers exam-review sessions for less.  You can use a simple chart like the one below.

What doesn’t your competitor do to well?
If your competitor doesn’t do something well, you can use that to your advantage by doing it better, and communicating the fact that you do. For example, if your competitor doesn’t do late-evening sessions, but you do, you can point that out to your customers. This is an important feature, because some people may work, or want to go home and rest before studying. You could also look at things your competitor doesn’t do at all, and use that to your advantage, as well. For example, we donate the money in order to build schools, something that no one else does, so you could make it known that you do.

Pay Attention to your Competition
In order to properly perform a SWOT and deal with competition, you must pay attention to what they are doing. The reason for this is so that if they do something, you can always one-up them. This is similar to a hockey team watching highlights of the teams they’re facing to know what they need to focus on. Do this by looking at their posters, booths, and especially their website/social media. If you see them doing something, (e.g. running a special promotion) then plan a promotion that you can run, ensuring that you’re staying within budget. If you’re competition does something wrong, improve on their flaws. Know that it may not be the best idea to do exactly what they did, but you could it better than them.

While doing this, be sure to play fair. Don’t play dirty by stooping to low levels, and doing something like creating lies about the competitor, even if they play dirty.


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