This may come across a little different than what many of us conceive, so let me put it in some context. Recently I was speaking with a colleague about the possibilities of different software systems being able to operate on different hardware setups. This led to the inevitable ‘Mac vs. PC’ debate. My colleague, being a pro Mac person from the onset was arguing the position that if Mac’s OS was available on “PCs” that it would put Microsoft out of business. I reminded him of IBM when they allowed the Tandy clone and others, and how MS does not make hardware (sans XBOX and the upcoming Surface), and that MS already exists on $400 machines. The question should be more so, could Apple thrive competing against its own hardware with their OS on other machines. My thought on it is that Apple would suffer. I believe that was the late Steve Jobs though on it as well.
His actions weren’t to give consumers a “choice” between Mac and PC, but to give them a complete alternative. The iPod was an alternative to a Walkman/Discman. The iPad was an alternative to a laptop. The MacBook Air was an alternative to the netbook. Even the Mac OS was an alternative to Windows. The late comer in the race, though, Google; has given us a “choice” between the Apple iOS and Android. Those who have operated both can understand and speak of the similarities. (Or you can always look at the Apple vs. Samsung case)
So let’s look at some definitions.
CHOICE: An act of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities
ALTERNATIVE: A choice limited to one of two or more possibilities, as of things, propositions, or courses of action, the selection of which precludes any other possibility: You have the alternative of riding or walking.
To a consumer, having a choice means having an option between products and services that are “good enough” but one may just be better than the others. An alternative on the other hand requires the consumer to accept one choice, and reject the other. If one is great, then the other must suck. For example, have you ever gone out to eat with a friend, and when the server asks, “What would you like to drink?” your friend says Coke or even just soda or pop? If asked if Pepsi is ok, your friend might even say, it doesn’t matter. To your friend, they have a choice between Coke and Pepsi, or Dr. Pepper, or any other soda, because that’s all they really wanted. On the other hand, a while back I was with my friend Jack at a KFC in Cookeville, TN. When the cashier told him that they only served Pepsi products, Jack opted for water instead. To him Coke was the real thing, and Pepsi was garbage. He’d rather drink water.
When we have alternatives, it brings us to a duality mentality. Either, or, but not both. If you think of businesses like, Target and Wal-Mart, Nikon and Canon, Ford and Chevy, Coke and Pepsi, Mercedes and BMW, Colgate and Crest, to name a few; all of these are marketed and branded as alternatives to each other. Then you have companies like Honda and Toyota, Hyatt and Marriott, Pentax and Olympus, and even as of late Cadillac and Lincoln, which are both now marketed as choices between American Luxury, and an alternative to their foreign competitors.
So my question to you is this; when it comes to your competitors, are you a choice or an alternative? Can your prospects compare apples to apples between you and your contemporaries, weighing the pros and cons between you and them, and then make a price/value decision? Or are you the distinct alternative? The Apple to their orange? Are you the only person who does what you do, and do it as well as you do it? Do you provide a product or service that is ahead of the industry that you are in? If you bring your clients to feel that you are the alternative to lessor products and service, then your price is not as big a factor as their budget. They will find a way to pay for you. Look at how many poor, starving, ramen noodles eating, MacBook and iPhone having college students there are out there if you don’t believe me.