How can you shift their playing field?

What can you do that no one else is doing?

SPECIAL NOTE: As you probably know, I am passionate about helping people “Master their Make It Happen Mindset” in their Business, Career and Life. If you know someone who could use my expertise please feel free to forward their name to me (and this newsletter to them).

A couple of months ago I was having lunch with a friend that I worked at Microsoft with. We were talking about what made Microsoft so successful in their marketing and what we agreed on was that Microsoft was a master at shifting the playing field to suit their needs. Think about it, Microsoft Word took away a 90% market share lead from WordPerfect, Windows NT took away a 70% market share lead from Novell and Windows Explorer took away a 90% market share from Netscape. Were Microsoft products that much better? No. Microsoft was a master of shifting attention and changing the landscape. Instead of focusing on wordprocessing Microsoft focused on the integrated suite of Office products, instead of having a network discussion; Microsoft spoke of the Windows Open Service Architecture (WOSA) and instead of discussing browsers Microsoft targeted the seamless desktop where the browser was the operating system and the operating system was the browser. In a product to product comparison there is never a clear winner but when Microsoft shifted the playing field no one else could compete with them. So this leads me to ask, how can you shift your playing field?

Are you finding yourself focused on a product/service comparison and struggling to create a sustainable difference? That can be very painful process. I like the way Harry Beckwith expresses it, “Your opportunities for growth often lie outside the confines of your current market. Fighting within these confines, particularly in mature markets, causes you to spill too much blood and money.” It’s true, you are setting yourself up for a losing battle. So are there ways for you to shift your market position by bundling in other services so that others can’t compete. Ask yourself, what do you (and your company have) that no one else has access to? How can you shift it so that you are in a world all on your own?

Years ago when Crest and Colgate were fighting the cavity battle Close Up came out and said their toothpaste will get you more dates. Yes, your teeth may fall out by thirty but by then you’re married so I guess that’s ok. Many times when you look at your competitor’s strength you can find their weakness by becoming the opposite. Coke had one hundred years of tradition so Pepsi became the choice of a new generation. Hertz was the number one car rental company so AVIS focused on being number two and trying harder. Ask, where is your competition dominant then look to the opposite. A large company can’t be the little one that cares.

Another question I like to ask is how can you go against industry tradition? What can you do that no one else is doing? Can you offer different hours, a different mix of service or a different level of expertise? Often times we get set in doing things exactly like everyone else. Note: Remember if you are going to be different you may have to help your customers “unlearn” the way things used to be.

Finally, have you considered ways to create more of a niche business for yourself? Recently, I have started to brand my sales training so that it is focused entirely on Engineers and Consultants. While there are tons of sales training programs out there the Effectivation one is the only I know of focused on this market. In response, Watson Wyatt, McKesson Canada and Gartner Lee have all endorsed this program as their national standard. Why? Because we are experts in helping engineers and professional service organizations sell. How can you position your business so that you have a distinct new advantage?

This month take time to look at your business and ask are you spilling too much blood trying to be a clone of everyone else. Is there a way to position yourself differently in the customer’s mind? It’s true you may lose some market opportunity by making a shift but isn’t 100% of something a lot less painful then fighting to get a little bit of everything? I tend think so…

Curt Skene