Know Yourself, Know Your Competition

If you know your competitor and know yourself, you need not fear the result of engagements. If you know yourself but not your competitor, you will know victory and defeat. If you know neither your competitor nor yourself, you will succumb in engagement. ― Paraphrase from The Art of War written by Sun Tzu

Recently, I was working with a client that was using my services and had the opportunity to help their small business take the time to be successful versus a “hit or miss”, success or failure approach, or simply failure as they choose their strategic plan for 2015 and start execution.

Acting (tactical) is easy. Planning (strategy) is somewhat simple. Information and knowledge are ubiquitous. But the constant, flawless execution of a well researched, informed strategic plan with time defined, outcome-based measurement is often where a company finds themselves falling short at year’s -end during annual review.

“Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.” – Joel A. Barker

Knowing yourself and all about your business as well as knowing your competition is an important setup in your strategic planning. I am pleased to share insights on both.

Know Yourself

Know your product, understand and show how you can successfully take it to market. Demonstrate and prove the sustainability of demand.

Know your people. Not human resources. Get personal. If you can replicate your passion, energy, drive and experience to each and every employee through training and mentoring programs, then you multiply your efforts in each person committed to your company.

Know your customers. I had a coffee shop client and like most they knew so many of their regulars by name, knew what they liked, when they came in and even knew about them personally in some respect. If you have already entered the market and are in retail, why invest in market research before you first approach your existing customers. Often it is the point-of-sale interaction between the customer and your employee that is the difference between a Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts and your own local option such as Java Jive.

If you market the right product to the wrong audience at the right time even if it is in your designated marketing area (DMA), your campaign may fail.

Your designated marketing area (DMA) is just that. It is also a good general rule and ratio of how committed a customer is [time, distance and other related factors] to use your product or service.

Know your messaging. Whether it is marketing, advertising, loyalty programs, social media or more traditional media, understand where your customers are spending their time, what is important to them and how they can be emotionally devoted (Loyalty Factor) to your service or product. Know your market’s trigger words, key words or phrases that resonate with them and are related to your product or service. Examples are cost, convenience or experience.

Loyalty Factor: I like the easy and ubiquitous example of Apple, who may not always have the best product on the market, but have built such loyalty as a first-mover to the tech market that competitors have to truly offer a better product at a better price to gain market share. And even then, Apple’s Loyalty Factor continues to dominate the market place.

Promotion messaging and timing are also critical.

If you market the right product to the right audience at the wrong time in your market’s DMA, your campaign may fail.

Real estate and retail marketing have converged in the 21st century.

Location, location, location. No matter how wonderful your product or service is, how well you market it or how on target your messaging, location and need-solution timing are critical to success.

If you market the right product to the right audience that are outside of your market’s DMA, your campaign may fail.

Always know your cost per acquisition (CPA) when building your strategy and your business. Make sure you calculate your business’ specific unique CPA for various products or services.

The value of your product or service may be greater to your customer than your competitor because of the familiarity factor, the Loyalty Factor, convenience factor and a host of other considerations specific to your industry, situation, competition, market place, etc.

I have worked with many restaurant clients who will calculate the exact cost to make a lunch sandwich, weigh the meat and know the exact amount of time it takes to make the sandwich, but when they decide to advertise they don’t calculate the value and impact of a Loss Leader Promotion (pricing strategy where a product is sold at a price below its market cost to stimulate other sales of more profitable product or service), on their businesses cash flow or measure the success ROI of their media buying.

Know Your Competitor

This starts with a competitor (or SWOT) analysis, “estimation force” and “tactical dispositions” of your competitors.

The competitor analysis is not a static, one and done activity. This analysis should be constantly evolving. When you are on the football field, you read the players positions but also their movement.

From their Four Walls Marketing to their website, understand your competitors’ strategic marketing plan.

Understand their strategy, i.e. their approach.

Know their preferred channels (advertising, marketing, print, outdoor, radio, digital media, programmatic marketing, etc.)

Know when they employ their unique messaging and on what channels, annually, quarterly, monthly, weekly, daily and what day parting (dividing the day into several parts) they determine effective. Know competitors unique market constraints.

Understand where your competitors’ products or services are weak, understand their fluidity and adaptability to you and the market place.

Understand the competitor’s messaging, value proposition, key services, products and people. Marketing is about market differentiation.

Know their partners and vendors, their mix of marketing spend, their staffing, their experience.

Stay current and informed on competitor movement, and adapt your strategy accordingly. Your marketing plan designed and implemented in January should take into consideration a major competitor launching an initiative in March. We should not be reactive, but fluidity and adaptability are keys to marketing and business success.

Talk to your customers and your competitors’ customers, and gain insights into the above areas.

These are just a few of the strategies I employ at Heyden Communications to “begin with the end in mind” and guide my clients through a successful year.