The Number One Competitor of Your Product

There’s a universal competitor that every product is competing with. Every service competes against this competitor too.

  • Your big enterprise software has this competitor;
  • Your small subscription software has this competitor;
  • Your personal care product has this competitor;
  • Your book has this competitor;
  • Your productivity product has this competitor;
  • Your drill, your phone accessory, your utensil, your commoditized low-price product has this competitor;
  • Your custom design service has this competitor, and your productized service offering has this competitor.
  • You develop web sites? You make a living doing something that has no competition? Your product ticks every box in the Blue Ocean Strategy? You’re in a “market of one”? You’ve got this competitor too.

This competitor is universal, every product has it, every service offering has it.

Nobody talks about it.

The Fourth Force of Progress is the Strongest

Let’s say you sell plants, the kind of plants that people buy to make a nice garden or to assemble a nice flowerbed.

According to the Jobs-To-Be-Done lens, people don’t just buy your plants, they hire your plants for a few specific jobs. The job of making a flowerbed. The job of giving a house-warming gift.

In the mind of the purchaser, there are four forces at play, pushing or pulling, tugging toward making a purchase or putting a break on the purchase.

Forces Diagram

  1. The Struggle of the moment propels the person to start getting organized to get a job done. ⚬→ “It’s almost the end of the summer, and this year I’d like to try picking out bulbs to plant so they come out in the spring and stay every year, and I’ll up my flowerbed game”. So the person starts the process and falls on a product or two that have attractive aspects to them. The second force picks up…
  2. The Attraction of the solution force is caused by the properties of a particular product (solution) that catches the initial momentum, and seduces the buyer into finishing up and making the purchase. →⚬ “These plants would look great in the spring.” The problem is that there’s a doubt that creeps in. The third force comes in and puts the break on the momentum.
  3. The Anxieties of the solution force is caused by the properties of the product that seem off, not quite appropriate, causing pause. ←⚬ “It says here that I need full sun for these. How high will these grow? Any specific kind of soil for these ones?”. These could include the price of the item, but in this example, the price didn’t create the anxiety. It was all these other aspects. So much momentum was lost that the fall comes and goes and the final force kicked in.
  4. The Habits of the present force is the one that pulls the buyer way back into familiar territory. “It’s too complicated. I can’t figure this stuff out. I can’t spend a ton of time. I don’t want to hire a florist.” Those were the thoughts that came up after the anxieties surfaced. And then the habits come up in their mind: ⚬← “I won’t go with perennial flowers for next year. I’ll just continue with annuals.”

“I’ll just”. The usual habits of the person are the super-massive black hole of the sale, the gravity well you need to fight against in order to get lift-off and change orbit.

  • ⚬← “I’ll just continue doing stuff by hand”
  • ⚬← “I’ll just borrow a drill from my neighbour”
  • ⚬← “I’ll just figure it out by myself”

“I’ll just” is your product’s biggest competitor. It’s the force with the strongest pull out of the four forces.

It’s also commonly called by this other term:


What happens when a buyer decides not to go with a sale? They decide not to consume.

More than any of the other similarly-packaged competing products in your category, the non-consumption decision accounts for the vast amount of purchase decisions.

What’s more, many people don’t really want to analyze competing offerings. It causes stress to compare too many competing alternatives. Your product might be fine, but if it’s amongst other similar alternatives on the same shelf, the other competitors will cause the buyer to say “too bad, I’m not buying any of them.”

Non-consumption is what you’re competing against.

Two plans:

Plan A for beating non-consumption:

  1. Find a job that no product or service serves well, where there’s a lot of non-consumption;
  2. Create the product or service that will serve it just well enough for people to blast through the top two forces, produces few anxieties and is way better than what people would “just do” instead of buying;
  3. You have a product that will sell.

Plan B for beating non-consumption:

  1. Take your existing product;
  2. Figure out what job people hire your product to do (reach out if you need help with this);
  3. Remove every feature that’s not serving the job;
  4. Remove every anxiety-inducing properties (that probably includes features that are not serving the job, a low price is an anxiety as well sometimes);
  5. Make sure your product is better than whatever the buyer would “just do” instead of buying;
  6. You have a product that will sell.

Hope you beat that universal competitor.

Stay sharp.


Get new articles like this one.

To learn to sharpen your sales pages.