Business Planning Considerations: Creating Entry Barriers for Competitors

If your business is entering a new (to you) industry or market area, expect to face some barriers as you seek to compete profitably with already-established businesses. At the same time, think about building some barriers of your own in an effort to up the ante for competitors seeking to follow you into your business arena or market area.

Entry barriers come in a wide range of forms, including

  • Intellectual property: By protecting your idea and production process, you can block others from legally using your approach for a number of years. Visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office for information.

  • Cost and pricing advantages: Consider building a cash reserve to allow your business to cut prices or enhance promotions, if necessary, to force new competitors to operate at an unsustainable loss. Also, consider volume-purchase commitments with key suppliers in return for lower costs that result in product pricing that competitors will find hard to match, as well as contracts and relationships that deter customers from switching to competitors.

  • Credibility advantages: By securing specific accreditation or certification, exclusive distribution or licensing agreements, industry endorsements or other differentiating associations, or credentials, your business can develop marketable attributes that are difficult for competitors to match.

  • Branding advantages: Especially if you’re the first in your market with a particular product or service, invest upfront to quickly build market awareness and a strong brand that will make future marketing efforts both more manageable and less costly. The faster you establish your product or service as the preferred choice, the more expensive unseating you in the marketplace becomes for newcomers.

  • Regulations and trade restrictions: Tariffs and quotas work as entry barriers to international and some domestic markets. If your industry is subject to trade restrictions, join industry associations, attend industry conferences, and follow industry news to keep up on the rules under which your business needs to operate. You should also participate in efforts to protect your markets from those who aren’t authorized to participate.

  • Economic factors: The price of equipment, licensing, research and development, or other mandatory expenses involved in setting up shop deter other competitors from entering your arena. As you establish your business, think in preemptive terms, selecting equipment and processes around which you can build a distinct and impenetrable advantage.

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