“Know Thine Enemy"(featured in the "Pitch Report" October 1st innings 2013)
I’m convinced that if Sun Tzu of “The Art of War” fame had lived in our times, he would have given Anthony Robbins a run for his money in the motivation and sales training arena… and then had him killed. But as the fifteenth century, Italian politician and all-round cad Machiavelli (supposedly) once famously said, “The problem with big business is that you can’t actually kill your competitors… (cue awkward pause)…” more importantly he coined the phrase, “The end justifies the means”. While we here at Line & Length see merit in the uncompromising drive of megalomaniacs the world over, we also cleave to the Judeo-Christian ethic of “thou shalt not kill”. It’s not an official Company position but it’s something with which we are all comfortable. (Ed. Moving on?)
Acknowledging that businesses now operate in a time when consumers are far more sophisticated, aware, demanding and processing more information about products and services than ever before, it is vital that everything that can be known about a competitor is known and leveraged. Successful business entities understand the competitive landscape. They are aware of not only who their competitors are, but what they are good at, better at, what they are striving towards and their most effective weapons in the war for market share and profits. “It’s a game of inches and the inches we need are all around us” quoth one of our favourite movie football coaches.
Once the competitor’s strategy and arsenal has been duly scrutinised (in the first place, usually by way of a SWOT analysis), countermeasures can be devised and implemented. A venture that realises that they cannot match a competitor on premium goods and cache with the market may, instead of hoping to snag the scraps falling from the master’s table, attempt to shift the paradigm by launching affordable alternatives that play to the modern consumers’ pursuit of value and asks the terrifying poser: “Why pay more?” This is the well-worn path of the “start-up”, seasoned also-ran and wily veteran alike. Witness the rise of the generic brands, the bane of many established premium suppliers, ranging in scope from home brand milk and cut-price foie-gras to over the counter pharmaceuticals and members of parliament… maybe. The first step to “only fighting battles you can win” is knowing your enemies, strengths, weaknesses and predilections. Here are three of the top 10 stratagem headers that often help to uncover opportunities and at the very least lend greater insight into the marketing soul of your competitors.
Follow the leader: not only a ground-breaking track from a true hip-hop pioneer at the very peak of his powers but a premise that discourages the pursuit of second, third or fourth place-getters and encourages the study of market leaders.
Help yourself to the freebies: savvy enterprises and the operators behind them know that market domination may be as much about selling themselves as their product. Find out what makes your competitors tick and what they would ultimately like to achieve by reading between the lines of their company profiles and bios.
Help yourself to more freebies: blogs, forums and testimonials are where you’ll mine rich veins of groundless opinion, damn lies and the warblings of short-sighted, disgruntled ex and current employees and customers. Mud sticks though, so “read the stop signs” as TISM sagely instructed in the 90s but take everything you read there with a grain of salt.
To paraphrase the forward-thinking Chinese General “keep your customers close and your competitors closer”… and then have them ki… (Ed. That’s enough, shut it down)