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Today we’re going to have a look at how to beat the competition, and I’m going to show you why the best way to beat the competition is to completely ignore them and focus instead on your customer and the problems that they face. How to beat the competition?

Here are my recommended six steps: 1- Understand your customers before worrying about understanding your competitors. 2- Be blisteringly clear about what problem you’re solving for those customers, the market. 3- Be just as clear about who that problem most affects. You should really only be targeting them. 4- Solve that problem better than any of your competitors. 5- Or find a niche in which you can. You may not be able to solve the problem for everybody better than your competitors, but there’s got to be a sub-part of the market for which you can. 6- Communicate effectively so that your market knows why that’s a problem they should be focusing on and why you solve it best.

To get to this, I reviewed five articles and let me show you those five articles now. The first article is from American Express by Nellie Akalp, CEO and Founder of Corpnet. She concludes that there are four things we should do. Identify gaps – if you like, that’s our blue ocean rather than a red ocean, if you’re a fan of that book. Create a customer-centric culture and don’t compete on price. I’m going to agree, it makes sense to argue that, but frankly there’s time in the market where you absolutely should compete on price. But there’s a time when that’s not such a great idea and in one of the articles I’ll review today I’ll also explain that niching isn’t either. Remember that saturation can mean strength. Basically, it’s go carve out a niche. I don’t disagree with that; in fact it’s probably worth a read.

Lessons from Successful Entrepreneurs on How to Beat the Competition, by Christopher Hahn. Four good examples and ways to beat the competition, and I would again recommend that you read this article. I will give you a framework though, at the end, for choosing which of these ideas makes good sense and which of these ideas is not great, depending on where your market’s up to. There are no universal truths about strategy, it all depends. However, I quite like the examples they’ve given and I recommend you have a read of that.

Next one was Thirty-Seven Ways to Beat Your Competition. Now, as you’d expect from a list of 37 articles, it’s only going to be a laundry list. But that’s okay, don’t discount it. It’s a great checklist if you’re in a strategic wrestle and you need to think about ways to beat your competition. At the end of today’s discussion I’m going to give you some concrete conclusions that I think you should follow. However, they are strategic. If you still need to go super tactical on your competitive strategy, read this article. It is worthwhile for that purpose, so certainly I wouldn’t suggest we discount its value.

Article four, Strategic Ways to Beat the Competition, by Tito Phillips Jr. It’s very much about customer intimacy. There are five recommendations; brand, cultivating an advantage, creating a database, communicate both with and to your consumers – it explains why he thinks distinction is important, and then finally, excite your customers. It’s very consumer in its orientation, but the essence of his article is that it’s about customer intimacy. Not necessarily one that you need to read.

Unfortunately, the last article I planned to discuss is only because it got shared a lot rather than coming up on Google. I’m definitely not going to recommend because well A) it’s very consumer bases, and B) at the time I researched the company, they were obviously having a problem with their website and it’s just giving a really short article with no real essence. Comments are saying that it’s wonderful, it’s not it’s terrible. So don’t bother.

Let’s work out what all of that means and then draw our own conclusions. – Find an under-served market, a blue ocean if you like. – Be customer centric; for lots of reasons, but in particular so you can innovate better. – Don’t compete on price. – Find a niche that you can own. – Build a brand with positive resonance and associations. – Cultivate a competitive advantage. – Create a customer database. And; – To that database, communicate both with and to your consumers. – Excite your customers.

There are two frameworks I’m going to use to explain the questions, “how to beat your competition?” The first is from Jeffrey Moore, his chasm theory reminds us that we need to focus first on the customer or in fact the whole market. “Where is the market at?” and “What are they ready for?” Therefore, what should our strategy be? That holds true for every element of strategy, including competition.

The second framework I’m going to use is ‘The Buyer’s Journey’. That’s a term I coined in 2003 in the Leaky Funnel. Essentially, it was just reminding marketers every tactic should be tried to move a buyer from somewhere to somewhere. I thought it was just a tactical framework, but it turned out to have a big strategic impact. Particularly, understanding the importance of knowing the problem that you solve for the market and how to solve that better than your competition.

What does that boil down to? – Understand your customers before worrying about understanding your competitors. – Be blisteringly clear about what problem you’re trying to solve for the market. – Be just as clear about who that problem most affects, because that’s your target. – Solve that problem better than your competitors (notice that this is the first point where the competitors even come in, and it’s necessarily don’t do what they’re doing or do something better – it’s solve the customer’s problem better). It’s all about the customers. – If you can’t do that for the whole market, then find a niche for which you can. I simply cannot accept anybody’s argument that they are unable to beat the competition. You always can, just not for everybody necessarily. Find a part of the market for which you can, and then focus on that market. Dominate that market.

Don’t just do all that strategically: communicate. Communicate to that new market, that niche whoever it is, so that they buy into the fact that this is the problem they should be focused on, and of course why you solve it the best and that’s where the journey comes in.

I hope you got a lot out of that. I enjoyed today. I’m a big fan of Jeffrey Moore’s work, and in particular reminding us where we need to focus our attention. So I hope you got some value out of that. Now if you did, the chances are good that you’ll enjoy our other shows. We do one every week on strategic and tactical matters related to filling the funnel. So if you haven’t already, can I invite you to subscribe.

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