How to measure success when you have no direct competitors

James Hind presents a few simple ways to benchmark growth and success when you don't have competition hot on your heels.

‘Success’ can mean many different things in the world of business and the metrics can vary wildly from business to business. What one organisation deems to be a mark of success, another may not see as such a milestone, but what most have in common is that the majority will rely on competitor companies to set the standards they expect and those they aim for.

There are ways to benchmark success when you have no direct competitors, however, and as the founder of a new car buying platform I have devised a way to measure the progress of my business despite a lack of direct rivals.

While there are new car brokers in existence, ours is a different model entirely and it is already majorly disrupting the new car buying market. Benchmarking success has been an important process in the growth of the business to date, which is scaling very quickly; but it’s not just an increase in staff numbers or a surge of users that determines the level of success that carwow is achieving.

We have had to put various processes in place to set out what, precisely, can benchmark the company’s success. The method and thought process behind this can easily be applied to other start-ups lacking in direct competitors.

Businesses with a lack of competition mustn’t ever get complacent and feel as though they don’t have to benchmark success. Having points of references when scaling is crucial, especially for businesses without competitors.

Segmented launch approach

One of the best ways to monitor success can be to have a gradual roll out process when it comes to your product or services. In our case, this meant launching one segment of the market at a time. To begin with, users could only get quotes for one brand of car through the platform but, once this brand was working effectively without a glitch, another was then introduced onto the site.

This new manufacturer’s performance was then benchmarked against the first, which had already had more time to mature. Even now, the first brand of car launched on the platform is way ahead of the others on metrics, so the team focuses on following in its footsteps.

This way of benchmarking success can be applied to other markets and services. Before launching everything all at once, plan out a segmented approach that will enable you to test the waters with something first before moving on to your next objective.

Be data-obsessed

When trying to scale and see how successful your business is, it’s important to never stand still and become complacent. You should always compare performance not only to the previous month, but the previous year as well, taking seasonality into effect. Being data-obsessed is no bad thing and our team has always thrived on numbers when it comes to benchmarking success. Aiming for consistent percentage growth in all key metrics is very important.

Not having a direct competitor means that a brand needs to push towards being the best it can be, because there is no ‘next guy’ to prove it’s better than. When you’ve got competition, it’s easy to say ‘well, we’ve beaten them, we can rest now’ but start-ups with no rivals don’t have this luxury. It’s also worth pointing out that even when a brand with competition does beat its rivals, the team behind it still shouldn’t rest on their laurels and get comfortable.

Keeping user acquisition costs down

Gaining new customers and users can be a costly experience, which can ultimately hinder a brand’s growth. Our team push to improve user acquisition costs, while also increasing the volume of users. By driving the cost of generating new custom down to be as low as possible and finding low cost means of increasing the number of users, we are able to ensure the balance is right for growth.

Your employees

Your staff can be a decent indication of the level of success you are experiencing. Many would automatically assume that this point is referring to the number of employees a company has on its books, but that’s not it at all. Plenty of businesses jump the gun and recruit before they need, or indeed, can afford people, so just because you have a decent staff count, it shouldn’t be a mark of success.

By monitoring how employees are feeling about their job in lots of areas, from brand ambassadorship, their relationship with colleagues and managers to the quality and frequency of feedback (which can all be tracked with software like Officevibe) a business can track how this changes over time, which is great for rapidly growing companies. Your staff are the life force of your brand and all play a crucial role in the business’ growth. Happy, high performing employees can be a good measure of success, as can the quality of talent showing an interest in your brand.

Encourage reviews

Some brands are wary of asking for reviews from users, fearing criticism or damaging comments. However, it is a fantastic way to benchmark success, especially with no competition to compare your performance to. Trustpilot is a fantastic platform to use and we are able to measure how happy users are about the service by encouraging people to leave feedback. The Trustpilot comments and scores can then be compared to similar businesses in other verticals to benchmark success in customer service and engagement.

As well as users, we constantly ask suppliers (the car dealerships) how satisfied they are and if the service has improved since they last used it. This allows the team to benchmark against their own performance and check they are heading in the right direction.

Get feedback from the experts

Speaking with entrepreneurs from other businesses, to hear how they are doing, can be a very valuable exercise. Even if their business is entirely different to whatever it is you are doing, they will still have useful nuggets of information and insight that could help you to realise how well your business is currently doing. You might think that you’re far from successful, but speaking to others who’ve been there and done it might be able to shed some light that allows you to realise you’re further along than you think.

Working closely with its board and advisers has been something that carwow has found to be extremely helpful in terms of benchmarking success. Getting someone else’s view on how you’re doing shouldn’t be seen as fishing for compliments, but rather a chance to gather feedback from people with much more experience and knowledge. If you’ve received investment for your start-up, remember to lean on your backers for help and benchmarking tips. Most investors will want to be actively involved in your company’s growth, so don’t just take the money and never use their expertise.

So, in short, there are plenty of methods to benchmark your business’ success when you don’t have any competitors to compare your performance to. The most important thing to remember is that you do have to put measures in place to track your brand’s success, because by not doing so you will hamper growth and your business could easily become stagnant.

James Hind is founder of www.carwow.co.uk.

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