Marketing: Enemy at the Gate or Within?

I recently spent a few moments listening to a CEO of a growing tech company. His speech was focused on the genesis and success of his company. As you would imagine, there were a lot of things that intrigued me while listening, however, one particular topic piqued my interest more than the others – the subject of marketing with respect to competition.

As his speech wound down, he opened the floor for questions. One audience member asked this dynamic business leader what he feared most about his competitors. “I don’t think about the competition”, he quipped. When I heard this statement I thought this gentleman was either aloof or incredibly arrogant—maybe both. However, as he began to explain his position, I soon realized that he was none of these things. He, in fact, holds a position that I feel is worth repeating.

Upon fielding the question of whether he’d wind up being another casualty of the intense competitive environment of Silicon Valley, he said that none of his competitors really had the ability to destroy him.  The most interesting part of this is he went on to suggest that this view should be held by all businesses. He further explained himself by saying that mostly all of the giants that have fallen in his industry were brought down by their own incompetence – not by the brute strength of a rival. As he rattled off a list once-powerful brands, I started to see what he was getting at; self-inflicted wounds are more likely to lead to the demise of a business as opposed to an attack from a competing operation.

Failure to Recognize OpportunityYou’ve probably seen the decline of mighty brands such as Blockbuster, Kodak or Yahoo! Some would suggest that leaner and swifter competitors appeared on the horizon and absconded with their customers. However if you look closer, these companies made major missteps with regard to an evolving landscape or business opportunity.  As a small business owner, don’t self-sabotage by clinging to a narrow view of your operation and how you market it. Peer into the future and make today’s plans line up with that vision.

Play Your GameIf you follow sports at all, you’ll always hear a phrase similar to, “We just gotta play our game.” In other words, you have absolutely no say in how your opponent will come after you.  The only thing you can do as a small business owner is run the most effective campaign as you can.  If you spend your life anticipating and reacting to competing businesses, you’ll lose the opportunity to focus on actual brand building.

The Thing That MattersThe audience member that spawned the competition question appeared to be dissatisfied that the leader of this flourishing tech company would not acknowledge his rivals. The reason for this was quite simple; the CEO felt that if he expended all of his energy on satisfying the customer and uncovering new ways to improve, there wouldn’t be time left for much else – especially looking over his shoulder for the competition.

What do you think about this strategy?

Walter Dailey is a marketing consultant and executive producer for Dailey Sound Vector, a creative services organization that specializes in radio ads and jingles for small to medium size businesses throughout the US and Canada.  Ask Walter your questions at