Monday, 20 December 2010 08:41

A FiG A Day Keeps Your Competition Away

Last time, we discussed how to find your niche. This time we'll discuss how to keep your niche from rivals. Once you discover your business niche, in this quickly developing competitive environment, you have to protect it.

First of all, competition is a good thing. Competition keeps you active, professional, and requires continual learning to overcome strategies, techniques, and approaches used by organizations that are trying to take your business or from whom you are trying to win new business. However, it never seems friendly. To win you have to be comprehensive about both competitors and yourself, you have to secure your business advantages, and you have to react quickly to their moves.

"If you know yourself and your enemy, you'll never lose a battle." ------------------- The Art of War

This line best interprets the reasons for being comprehensive about both your competitors' and your strengths and weaknesses. One cannot win a battle if he is too busy working on his own strategy while overlooking the opponent's attack; similarly one cannot win a battle if he has no idea about his own advantages against the opponent. Too often, sales people work hard to sell more, but they lack knowledge of their own products, services, approaches or strategies. If you don't know what you are selling and why, you'll never beat the competition no matter how strong or weak they are.

Speaking of your advantages, once you have them, how do you secure them? The secrets lie in intellectual properties. While products and tangible goods are easy to acquire and develop, the intangibles are often very hard to copy. Successful organizations always have their unique personalities, and usually it is their personalities that sell. When you think of Apple, you think of innovation; when you search Wikipedia, you know you have an answer; when you drive Volvo, you feel safe; and when you drink Coca Cola, you experience the American spirit. Their competitors, even if they can provide customers similar products, cannot provide the same unique shopping experience.

Therefore, to keep the competitions away from your business niche, it is crucial to create a unique business culture, and develop a relevant business presence. Don't overlook the effect of culture. Creating a bond is stronger than any other thing. The only disadvantage to this strategy is that like the business niche, culture is very difficult to create and keep. And I'm not talking about "we can wear sandals to the office on Fridays" type company culture.  We are talking about customer experience, projecting cultural relevance to your market.  Despite the time and effort necessary to create a culture, every employee you hire must understand what you are aiming to accomplish in the marketplace, and every action you make needs to be consistent. However, as long as you stick with it, and make decisions based on it, you will be able to establish a unique culture for your organization and a unique experience for your customer.

All right, now imagine you are facing attack from a competitor on a newly developed product. There are generally four actions you can choose: Defend, Return Fire, Accept, and Assist the attacker. I know that the last two options sound silly, but let me explain.

Accept: Accepting the attack and seeing the weakness they are trying to exploit or the strength they are trying to project.  How does the market respond?  Then use this situation/information to improve your product.

Assist the attacker: Find out why you are getting attacked. The attacker may be able to support you somehow. Sometimes it is even a good opportunity to build a win-win strategic relationship. For example the Airline Industry. My customers want to go to Chicago but my competition comes in and offers them a better price I can't compete with on a flight there. So I can either lose money fighting them or I can accept that they have a better positioned hub, or what have you, and I can drop or reduce my own Chicago flights and offer to partner with my competitor on that particular route.

FiG's advice for competition: Remain confident when facing it, fight with good will, and turn the enemy (or the knowledge you gain from them) into ally if you can!

FiG Advertising and Marketing (Focus Identity Group, LLC) is dedicated to providing results-driven brand marketing communications and campaigns to businesses just like yours. It is important to communicate and connect with your customers on a level that has more meaning than an impression.

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