If you begin to think about what you offer to an employer or client, depending on the career path you’ve chosen, there are always alternatives and competition.
There will always be alternatives. One alternative is that your client could do the work themselves instead of paying you to do it.
For some apps or software platforms, a free Google spreadsheet is an alternative.
If you make money providing a product or service to your clients, there will always be competition.
For some, the threat of artificial intelligence, or AI, is already here and impacting how you work.
What does this mean for you?
Well, for one, it means that there will always be someone or something better than you in your chosen profession.
Secondly, it means an opportunity exists to find an opportunity to leverage this to work in your favor.
Don’t Compete with AI, Instead Compliment It
When it comes to AI, if you’re not affected by it yet, you probably will be soon.
Take my profession, marketing. If you’re not familiar with it, you may wonder, “how could AI possibly affect something like marketing?”
Digital marketing has permeated every business with an online presence of some kind.
AI is designed into the search engine crawlers that crawl a website and help Google determine how your content and pages should rank for particular search terms.
If you advertise, especially on Google, AI can perform some of the account management tasks that used to be done by a paid search account manager.
In his book, Range, David Epstein talked about the game of chess and how the introduction of AI changed the game.
Starting with IBM’s Deep Blue in the ‘90s and continuing on with the program, AlphaZero, built by a Google-owned entity, machine learning, and AI have proven that machines are much more efficient and better at processing real-time data to make good decisions.
Essentially, computers are better at completing tasks than people are.
In 1997, Deep Blue defeated one of the best chess players to play the game, Garry Kasparov. According to Epstein, this sent Kasparov on a quest to better understand how humans and machines could co-exist and even create something even more brilliant- together.
He had a theory that machines could never match human, big-picture thinking. This includes strategy.
He was right. When humans focused on strategy and coaching using their ability to see the big picture of what was going on and “coach” the computer, leveraging the machine’s ability to perform task-level moves, the combo was virtually unstoppable.
There are alternative paths available despite all of the hype about AI and machine learning and the impending doom for your career.
AI could be just the thing you need to take your career to the next level. Do you really want to be in the weeds, doing the rote, repetitive tasks that a machine could do?
What if you could free up all of the time you used to spend doing those things and be able to flex your creative muscles and explore different strategies? What if you could pair your big-picture thinking with the task-driven capabilities of a machine?
A machine hasn’t lived your life and seen or experienced the things you’ve experienced. These are the things that make you and your big-picture perspective unique.
Take advantage of these technological advancements. Don’t cower in fear. Get to know their capabilities and find a way that you can team up in a way that only a human could.
When it comes to the products or services you provide, you aren’t going to be the right solution for everyone, and that’s OK. Even if you were, it would likely be impossible to scale enough to effectively service all of them.
Some people will prefer to do the thing you offer themselves. Some could find a cheaper alternative by combining a free service with someone cheaper.
Figure out what the actual value of the service you provide is, then focus on promoting that. Could someone use an alternative that costs less but it would take up more of their time?
If they value their time and have better uses for it, then your service or product could be a great match and worth paying for.
It all comes down to value and the choice your potential customers have to make.
If you’re making money doing what you’re doing there will be competition. If you’re somehow the first entrant into the market, then it’s just a matter of time before others arrive.
Especially if the barrier to entry is low. Even if it costs a lot of money to start up, if you prove that a positive return on the initial investment can be made, others with enough money will follow.
Then, why even bother doing anything at all? Because competition is healthy. Competition forces you to be for someone instead of everyone. It forces you to pick a position that appeals to the people your competition does not.
It forces you to be creative and laser-focused on your customers.
It forces you to be you, which happens to be the most bullet-proof competitive advantage you have.
The order with which I’ve listed the topics I’ve talked about here was intentional. I intentionally listed alternatives ahead of competition. Why? Because I’ve learned from Seth Godin that competitors aren’t really competitors.
They’re merely alternatives for people that are looking for something you don’t offer.
When you line up your competitors, what do you offer that they don’t? Don’t get hung up on tangible things either.
Remember when I said competition allows you to be you. How does that create an alternative for the people in your market that you seek to serve?
In closing, regardless of AI, alternatives, or competition around what you do, there are always ways to survive and thrive as you evolve your business and keep an eye on the wants and needs of the people you seek to serve.
Embrace AI as a way to free up your time to focus on the human side of your business.
Understand what alternatives and competitors exist and how your product or service positions among them.
By all means, don’t let these three things derail the dream and vision you had.