A while ago I attended an arts business morning tea. I didn’t go in the particular hope of learning new business skills or having personal arts biz revelations. I went because it was an ideal piece of “competitor analysis” as a part of my ongoing “market research”. I went because Clare Bowditch (that’s us in the pic above) was the facilitator and she is a star at so many of the things I wish to be a star at.
When I’m working with artists on their careers and businesses, I ask them to identify the guru of their field, that person who is doing what they want to be doing and doing it awesomely. One of those people for me has long been Clare. Firstly the way she has forged forward as a songwriter of strength and femininity while creating a family and working as an arts industry advocate and activist. Then how she created her Big Hearted Business supporting artists to develop more savvy in how they operate. When she turned up on the Australian TV series Offspring (in a role clearly intended for me, did they miss that memo?), I thought this woman is living the career I always intended to have! Even when I was doing market research for my Bali retreats, there she was again, one step ahead of me running creativity weeks in Ubud.
The ability to follow Clare’s career, explore the way she works through visiting her websites, watch her perform live, attend events she presents at and generally observe her approach and operations is a real gift to my career and business. I can see her pricing, get a sense of what products float and at what price points. I can observe synchronicities in the messages we have and points of difference. I can identify market gaps I have the ability to fill. By physically attending live gigs I can get a sense of the demographic that are buying what she’s selling and use that information to compare to my own known market and potential unknown markets I might not be considering. It gives me inspiration, new ideas and clarity on where I am as a part of a larger zeitgeist and what niche I fill within that bigger picture. (Thank you Clare for doing what you do and doing it so fantastically.)
The “competitor analysis” of market research tends to be a planning technique that meets with (to me) a surprisingly high level of resistance and angst. It can be such a valuable tool for your business and creative process. With such an easy access to information on other businesses through the internet it is an amazing opportunity to refine your own operations and avoid reinventing the wheel. Here are four of the key myths the research resistant often tell themselves.
1. I Already Know My Market
This is particularly the case for people who are mid career. They often have a notion that they know all the players that are out there and their place within that eco system. Unless there is a regular aspect of active researching going on that is probably not actually the case. New ideas, new products and new players pop up all the time. Likewise new markets emerge and new ways of reaching them. Things warp and change all the time and being in tune with those movements is really important.
2. I am Completely Unique
The notion that we are one of a kind, can be a common resistance for creative folk. In some cases it’s the truth and may be a sign that you are ahead of your time, which means you will need to take a much more compelling and aggressive marketing stand to convince people that this new idea is worth investing in. It may also be a sign that no-one wants what you’ve got. This in itself doesn’t mean you should give up what you’re creating but it may require you to take a different approach to your career or business financing and promotions. Of course what you do will be personal and unique to you but more often than not we are less unique than we think. It’s a big old post modern world and there are many kindred spirits in corners of the globe doing things that are similar if not the same us.
3. Competitor Analysis = Ripping off other people’s creative ideas
It can mean that for some people and sadly there are always markets for that kind of thing, especially if you can do it better and/or cheaper. For most genuine creative, inspiration and creation is a heart centred process. In the arts world, where originality and authenticity are such prized commodities, a heartfelt and genuine artist will not be able to use competitor analysis to directly rip off another artist. You are doing your thing and if you veer off that track you will run the risk of being a poor second or wannabe and creating disconnect from your own creative passion and your audiences. The ideas I do ask people to “steal” might include ways of selling that are working, branding approaches and trends that resonate, product ranges that could be incorporated, sales avenues and best practice in operations and systems. Be inspired by the creations other people are making and learn from their mistakes and successes.
4. Competitor Analysis = Being Competitive
I truly believe when we are connected to our heartfelt niche and vision, a notion of competition based on scarcity of opportunities kind of goes out the window. The world is big and we have the technology to reach it. I think what Clare does is awesome, in fact scroll down and check her out for yourself. I may sometimes wish for her level of “success” and reach but I don’t feel threatened by it. I have my own particular skill set and value system resulting from a life lived in my own heartfelt way. My music reflects that and my business reflects that. I have certain things to offer that are unique to me. I can thank Clare for establishing a precedent, her reach has qualified to lots of people that the kinds of services we both offer are valuable. She has tested the market in large sweeps and realized it’s there. Chick singer songwriters are likeable, arts-business support is needed and creativity retreats in Ubud are awesome. Can I give you exactly what she can, hell no. Can she give you exactly what I can, hell no. It’s all good. There’s room for us all.
Check out the inspiration bombs on Clare’s website from big names like Gotye and Sia, they are the bomb. Check me out here!
Morry is a publisher, an ideas man, a property mogul who’s “special gift” for business allows him to build dreams the size of Black Inc publishing, The Quarterly Essay, The Monthly, and most recently, The Saturday Paper. When it comes to TV, there’s a lotta crap out there…