If you copy your Competition, you will fail

if-you-copy-your-competition-you-will-fail

If you copy your Competition, you will fail. Your ‘Blue Ocean’ is waiting for you somewhere. Changing the perception. Altering the offering. Investing in new talent and new propositions. Either you are a producer or a service provider, or a content creator.

If you copy your Competition, you will fail

My former boss, Maurizio, used to say to the salesforce “don’t go to the customer with a routine agenda, like an order-taker; go there as an advisor and help them discover their ‘Blue Ocean’; take them out of their bloodbath“. He was speaking to telecom and big infrastructure sales teams, trying to tell them how to push the innovations of Ericsson with the Customer and not simply do the follow-up on the support contracts.

He was right. The competitive, pre-sales, and service game often lead us to an everyday repetitive routine to our Customers, making us (as the presenters of an offering) be seen as commodities; without offering incremental value, and without securing we evolve. Innovate. Improve what you do and go into new dimensions of excellence.

See around you. Same electronics’ retailers, same websites, same templates of e-shops in pharmacies and apparel. OK, the creative design might be different, but the propositions are ‘me-too’. Same pasta brands. The perceived and positioning differentiations are only in the minds of their Marketers. Audiences don’t buy-in anymore.

Competition-reactive is a ‘drug’…

Let me tell you right from the start, after 30 years in business-making and services, that you shouldn’t pay any attention at all to your competition. It’s often the most critical reason for ‘copy-cat’ failures.

All legal offices look the same, excluding how powerful is the leading advisor. All digital training schools, coaching services look the same and differentiate between pricing and length of service. Where are the real differentiators? Who’s measuring on KPI’s and objective criteria?

I don’t follow my Consulting competition. I work with entrepreneurs who none of them focuses on the competition either. They are aware of the competition, for sure, but they aren’t worried about trying to beat them. Some of them already have started acting, away from the industry standards, for a strategy of partnerships and synergies (read the Co-creation).

Studying the competition leads to failure

For 20 years or more, I was receiving from Advertisers and Marketers briefs with competitive response aims. “We should stop them“, “We must be seen as better on X attribute“, “We are responding to their price war“, and “Do something like what XZ did“. Mind you that the Marketing world was trained to massively address audiences and not customer journeys or unique consumer profiles. You understand what DNA they have inside today…

Show them the forest, and they discuss the tree in front. Tell them to ride in an infinite road and they look on the telephone pole on the right roadside… Competitive marketing in all industries until 2000 was competing vis-a-vis a competitor in the mere product, packaging, price changes. Unfortunately, the same happens today in the digital sphere.

When there is limited room to grow, businesses should try and look for verticals or new avenues of finding a new business space/opportunity where they can enjoy uncontested market share …’Blue Ocean’. A blue ocean exists when there is potential for higher profits, as there is now competition or the competition is irrelevant.

What is exactly a ‘bloodbath’ and a Blue Ocean in business?

The blue ocean strategy is a business theory that suggests companies are better off searching for ways to gain “uncontested market space” than competing with similar companies. The term is derived from the book “Blue Ocean Strategy” (Harvard Business Review Press, expanded edition, 2015), by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne.

The strategy represents the simultaneous pursuit of high product differentiation and low cost, thereby making competition irrelevant. Blue Ocean Strategy can be applied to sectors or businesses. It is different from the Red Ocean strategy.

In today’s environment, most firms operate under intense competition and try to do everything to gain market share. When the product comes under pricing pressure there is always a possibility that a firm’s operations could well come under threat. This situation usually comes when the business is operating in a saturated market, also known as ‘Red Ocean’ … the ‘bloodbath’ …where every similar company is actually doing the same service ‘pattern’.

Check your KPI’s to discover and think new ‘Blue Ocean’ strategies

“As companies compete to embrace customer preferences through finer segmentation, they often risk creating too-small target markets.”

W. Chan Kim, Blue Ocean Strategy

Bloomberg

Until Bloomberg’s debut in the early 1980s, Reuters, Dow Jones and Telerate dominated the online financial information industry, providing news and prices in real time to the brokerage and investment community. The industry focused on purchasers —IT managers—who valued standardized systems, which made their lives easier. Bloomberg saw that it was traders and analysts, not IT managers, who make or lose millions of dollars for their employers each day. Profit opportunities come from disparities in information. When markets are active, traders and analysts must make rapid decisions. Every second counts. So Bloomberg designed a system specifically to offer traders a leap in value, one with easy-to-use terminals and keyboards labelled with familiar financial terms. The systems also have two flat-panel monitors so that traders can see all the information they need at once and built-in analytic capability with the press of a button. By focusing on users, Bloomberg was able to create a blue ocean of strong and profitable growth

Curves fitness

The question Curves focused on: What made women either trade up or down between traditional health clubs and home exercise programs? Most women don’t trade up to health clubs for the profusion of special machines, juice bars, locker rooms with sauna, pool, and the chance to meet men. As for time, few women can afford to spend one to two hours at a health club several times a week. For the mass of woman, the city centre locations also present traffic challenges, something that increases stress and discourages going to the gym. It turns out that most women trade up to health clubs for one principle reason. When they are at home it’s too easy to find an excuse for not working out. Conversely, women who use home exercise programs do so primarily for the time saving, lower costs, and privacy.

The experience of a Curves club was entirely different from a typical health club. The member entered the exercise room where the machines (typically about ten) were arranged not in rows facing a television as in the health club, but in a circle to facilitate interchange amongst members, making the experience fun. The Quickfit training system used hydraulic exercise machines, simple to use, and non-threatening. While exercising, members could talk and support one another, and the social, nonjudgmental atmosphere was totally different from that of a typical health club. There were few if any mirrors on the wall, and there were no men staring at you.

iTunes

With the launch of iTunes, Apple unlocked a blue ocean of new market space in digital music that it has now dominated for more than a decade. Apple observed the flood of illegal music file sharing that began in the late 1990s, enabled by file sharing programs such as Napster, Kazaa, and LimeWire. By 2003 more than two billion illegal music files were being traded every month. While the recording industry fought to stop the cannibalization of physical CDs, illegal digital music downloading continued to grow.

With the technology out there for anyone to download music free, the trend toward digital music was clear. This trend was underscored by the fast-growing demand for MP3 players that played mobile digital music, such as Apple’s hit iPod. Apple capitalized on this decisive trend with a clear trajectory with the creation of iTunes in 2003. In agreement with five major music companies—BMG, EMI Group, Sony, Universal Music Group, and Warner Brothers Records— iTunes offered legal, easy-to-use, and flexible à la carte song downloads.

Form now on, they will need a new Blue Ocean…

Canon

Canon’s strategic move, which created the personal desktop copier industry, is a classic example of blue ocean strategy. Traditional copy machine manufacturers targeted office purchasing managers, who wanted machines that were large, durable, fast, and required minimal maintenance.

Defying the industry logic, the Japanese company Canon created a blue ocean of new market space by shifting the target customer of the copier industry from corporate purchasers to users. With their small, easy-to-use desktop copiers and printers Canon, created new market space by focusing on the key competitive factors that the mass of noncustomers – the secretaries that used copiers – wanted.

You shouldn’t brief your Agency either for Competition

Most advertisers go on to present to their agencies a ‘copy-cat’ / ‘me-too’ / parity proposition. The below funny example is totally true to real-life situations:

Study failures of industries for learnings

Studying businesses that have failed is a disruptive ‘rewind technique’. When you look at a failure in another industry, the situation is different enough that you can pull out the lesson without getting caught up in the dread of What if that happens to my business?

The answer is in the true marketing thinking. The failed business, in such an exercise, will show where they have failed the consumer. Where they’ve invested resources wrong. Suddenly, you will start making reflections for your own business.

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Closing

The big lesson here is that you, as a company owner or a manager, have a sacred duty to market your product or service based on the benefits it provides (OK), but you should invest equal time to search-through your business future.

Your ‘Blue Ocean’ is waiting for you somewhere. Changing the perception. Altering the offering. Investing in new talent and new proposition. Either you are a producer or a service provider, or a content creator.

That is the only thing that will ever compel someone to buy from you instead of your competition. The changing game you play. Not being trapped in the same-old-parity (chess) game. This is one of the core principles behind all business empires.

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