“WeWork, Walmart, Starbucks, “Goliath” is entering my market”, laments the local store owner. “Plus, they are giving away free stuff, and undercutting my price. Now what”.
We’ve all heard this thread at one time or another. Sometimes we hear the story on news about other small businesses and sometimes – it’s
personal (our own business is being attacked). My immediate response is, whether you are competing against Goliath or a local provider, competition is good. So, let’s talk about how to compete.
If your strategy is to compete against Goliath by trying to be Goliath you will fail. Why? Goliath will always have the advantage at well…being…Goliath. Had David armored up, and tried to take Goliath head on,David’s death would have been swift. Instead, David understood his opponent’s weaknesses: bad eyesight (perhaps David could attack unnoticed), size and armor which weighed town the lofty warrior (David wore no armor – leaving him nimble). David used a small, powerful and precise weapon – knowing that he if could hit Goliath in the most vulnerable spot in his head David would win.
I will approach this business challenge with my “sales and marketing” hat on. To win against a large (or small) competitor you must look inward to identify areas where you do have a competitive advantage and then double down. It works. Think of your own buying behavior and, I’ll give you an example of mine. We have a Starbucks in my town. Every day I pass the Starbucks and go a mile out of my way to a boutique coffee shop that has the espresso and vibe I want to start my day. My coffee shop is a little more expensive and the service is a bit more loosey-goosey than Starbucks but I like that! Rather than take Starbucks head on, this little coffee shop has created competitive advantage with its bundle of benefits that connect with me. These benefits are so powerful that if Starbucks offered me free coffee I wouldn’t take the offer.
So, what’s the answer from a sales and marketing standpoint? Well, first clearly understand the competitive landscape, then look inward to see where you fit in and finally establish a powerful unique bundle of benefits that can’t be replicated by Goliath or anyone else for that matter. This sounds obvious but I see small business die on the vine because they lost sight of their unique benefits (competitive advantage). Promoting and fulfilling on those benefits will be addressed in future posts. For now, the focus is establishing the benefits. When you create your benefits, consider these four factors. I’ll use a fictitious coffee bean to illustrate my point.
First, the benefits must be relevant: You may have the best cayenne coffee blend in the world, but if you audience doesn’t want cayenne coffee – then you are out of luck.
Second, the benefit must be perceived: If you have the best cayenne coffee in the world, and your market does indeed want it but they don’t know about it, then you will not achieve a competitive advantage.
Third, you must be able to seamlessly deliver the benefit: If you have the best cayenne coffee on one day but it’s bleh on the next, then you will not achieve a sustained competitive advantage.
Fourth, your benefit must render the next best alternative, irrelevant: Understandably, you may feel this is extreme. But, I find that extreme thinking can generate incremental change. So, when crafting your benefits think extreme.
Remember, competition unlike greed is good! Competition will make you look inward – hard to ensure that your benefits are indeed unique and powerful enough to compete and to achieve a sustained competitive advantage.
I know a bit about Goliath. While I did spend years marketing for large corporations, I’ve spent most of my career competing against Goliath with my teams and winning. Need help? Let’s connect.
By Andrea Pirrotti