Nobody is my competitor. This is not to say that I have no competition. When people use "nobody" for a small business marketing coach - that is a competitive threat. If people see having nobody to coach them through their marketing as offering a greater advantage than using me, then that is something I have to overcome with my marketing.
Ask any business owner who their competition is and they can probably rattle of a few names of businesses that do what they do. If I owned a garage I could name all the other garages in the area. If I owned a pizza place, I could name the other pizza places in town.
Your real competition consists of all the other likely choices that your customers can make. One of those choices is nothing at all. I may really need an oil change, but decide it's too much trouble or too expensive. I may be hungry and yet decide not to eat.
Another choice customers can make is D-I-Y or do-it-yourself. People can change their own oil or make their own pizza at home.
Yet another category of choices customers have includes related products or services. Instead of getting my car repaired I may just buy a new one, or get a motorcycle. Instead of pizza I may choose Thai food, a hot-dog from a cart, or a candy bar from a vending machine.
The two other competitive threats you must overcome are anonymity and momentum.
Anonymity simply means people don't know who you are yet. They may need what you have, but don't know that you're there to solve their problem. This is an easy problem to overcome with marketing.
Momentum is the idea that objects in motion tend to stay in motion and objects at rest tend to stay at rest. Objects also tend to move in a straight line unless acted upon by an outside force. In small business marketing we are talking about getting inactive people to act, and getting active people to change their actions. It's hard to get people off their comfortable couch. It's also hard to get people to change what they are used to doing.
One form of marketing momentum is brand loyalty. My wife uses Dove soap. If left up to me I would probably buy whatever was on sale and didn't smell bad. Getting her to switch from Dove soap, which she has used for years, would take an act of congress. If some other soap came along that was twice as good as Dove for half the price - you would still have to work to convince her to try it.
Understand your customers' choices and their motivations. You will have a more realistic picture of what your marketing must do for you.
J D Moore - Marketing Comet