Early on in my journey with Better Nature, I was constantly preoccupied about what other brands were doing – particularly what they were doing better than we were and what I could learn from them. I always felt like I was falling behind and was frustrated by the lack of time, experience, money and resources I had to catch up – a familiar story for all of us, I’m sure! It got to the point where it was almost crippling – I really didn’t know how to start having the confidence I needed to take myself and Better Nature forward.

Stop thinking about the competition

I then came across a really fascinating TedX talk by Alex Smith of Basic Arts. It totally re-framed how I saw Better Nature and its role in the market. I would highly recommend giving it a watch, but if you don’t get the chance, here’s a quick summary: we should all spend less time worrying about what everyone else is doing and more time focusing on what makes us totally unique. 

This seems somewhat counterintuitive, right? Surely we need to be aware what others are doing to make sure we’re always staying ahead? That is true to an extent: it’s important to know what competitors are doing when mapping out where we can add value in the market. There’s no point doubling up, especially if the competitor in question is more established. But once we’re clear on where we sit in the market, it’s a much better use of our time to focus on how we can really own that space, rather than on what others in the market are doing in their space. This is not to say we shouldn’t learn what’s best practice in the industry, but this can be done in a much more time-effective and productive way that doesn’t include stalking our competitors on the daily (hey, we’ve all done it!). 

But make sure others care about what we’re doing

As most of us know, a niche in the market doesn’t always signify a worthwhile opportunity. It’s vital to make sure there’s demand, either now or in the near future, for what we’re doing. As founders it’s tempting to create a product/service catered perfectly to us and assume others will also be interested in it, but we all know this is often not the case. It’s important that we run our own research, from reading papers and articles to speaking to our target audience (or a range of people until we figure out who that is), especially those outside our own bubbles – and make sure that what we’re offering is adding real value to people’s lives.

This value can be offered in multiple ways: it could be through creating a whole new product the market’s never seen before, or it could be re-framing a product in the market already in terms of the product itself, how it’s being marketed or its target audience. We don’t need to create something totally new to create value. As long as we’re able to find the white space and be distinctive within it, we’re giving ourselves the best chance to stand out and do well. 

For us at Better Nature, this came from the realisation that meat-free brands typically sat in two camps: there was one camp of hyper realistic meat alternatives which were more processed and indulgent, and then another of natural, simple meat alternatives which didn’t quite have the juicy, meaty bite we were craving. We could also see from our research that most people were choosing to reduce their meat intake for health reasons. So, the white space for us became really clear: we needed to create meat alternatives that balanced nutrition and taste. 

Lucky for us, we had the ingredient to do just that: tempeh. An all-natural plant-based protein from Indonesia with a delicious meaty bite and an incredible nutritional profile, we knew our tempeh-based products could really disrupt the market and own that white space. From this we built our brand strategy “Protein without compromise”, expanded to “Delicious, all-natural meat alternatives that don’t compromise on people, the planet or animals”.

Once that niche is chosen, totally commit to it

Once the position in the market is identified, it’s vital to commit to it in all aspects of the business. From marketing messaging to operations to products – in order to be impactful and authentic, every element of the business needs to be singing from the same hymn sheet. And don’t be afraid to have fun with it – the louder and cheekier brands are, the more memorable and successful they typically are.  

At Better Nature, “Protein without compromise” sits at the core of everything we do as a business, from our marketing activities to our HR practices to our customer service to our food science and product development. Creating delicious, nutritious and sustainable protein products and not compromising on people, the planet and animals in doing so is what drives us forward and this should (hopefully) be apparent in every touchpoint of our brand (let me know if not!).

Some great examples of brands doing this are Brewdog and Tony’s Chocolonely. Both of them started out as small challenger brands in huge, established markets. Markets that were filled with hyper successful brands that they could have easily tried to emulate. Instead, they focused on finding their niches: for Brewdog, it was sustainable and ethical craft beers and for Tony’s Chocolonely, it was slave-free chocolate. Both niches that the market probably didn’t even know it wanted at the time and no one else was even considering. They then built their businesses and brands around these niches, from their products to their messaging to their operations. To this day, they live and breathe their niche and that’s the main reason, in my view, why they are the hyper successful businesses they are. 

Have confidence in ourselves and our mission

To summarise, we could all spend our days looking at what others are doing and picking and choosing what we could use for our own businesses. But where does that leave us? Put simply, trying to compete with bigger brands (with deeper pockets) at their own game. 

And who wants that? To spend their life always looking over their shoulder and trying to keep up? To constantly feel like they’re not good enough, because they’re striving for someone else’s vision rather than their own? 

So, why not change the game up instead? Why not create our own rules, with confidence, vision and style, and keep looking forward? We’ll be all the more distinctive, successful and fulfilled for it, which sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

Where you can find me

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Elin Roberts

Elin Roberts

About your author

Elin is a marketing strategist-turned-entrepreneur who is passionate about making the world a happier, fairer and more sustainable place. 

You can find out more about Elin and her business here.

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