Tag Archives: Strategy

5 Questions to Attack your Competitor's Strengths and Win

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"We are not in the watchmaking business, we are in the true luxury business."

- Yves Piaget


When I ask many young CEO's and marketing people "Who's your competition and why are you better?" they answer with a list of both strengths and the competitors' longer list of weaknesses.  In addition, they rarely include the big competitor which is the customer's status quo.

Here's how to think strategically about competition.


  1. Today's customer's are more informed of competitor's strengths and weaknesses (especially if they are already using the products)
  2. Customers buy because the perceived strengths outweigh the weaknesses (which they're told are temporary)
  3. Often the competitors' strength is much broader than just the product (e.g. financial strength, longevity, service etc.)


Here are 5 questions to get you started  de-positioning a competitor...

1)  If me and my competitor both had the same product who would win and why? 

Neutralize those... through partnering, guarantee's, customer insurance etc.

2)  If we swap products with our competitor who would win and why?

Extends the issues from above, neutralize these also

3)  Who is  my "Perfect" customer that would buy from me instead of my competitor?

 Qualify leads to this description and keep closing gaps

4) What is my  competitors "Perfect" customer that will buy from them no matter what ?

FIlter leads and don't  spend energy here, learn what they value in the competitor's strengths

5) Can the opposite of my competitor's strength also  be a strength?

  If so... consider positioning there and migrate customers to the other side



The opposite of a fact is falsehood, but the opposite of one profound truth may very well be another profound truth"    

- Niels Bohr

You must fulfill a minimum requirement on every axis of competition... but you only need to differentiate on one (see my 60 Minute Marketing MBA Presentation). Here are some examples I've experienced:

THEY HAVE...    Great technology              BUT...     not based on open technology price curves

THEY HAVE...    Large existing network    BUT....    compete with customer's  cycles of learning

THEY HAVE...    Financial strength              BUT...      not as strong as our combined partner's

THEY HAVE...   Been around                        BUT...      don't offer disaster insurance

THEY HAVE...   Big user base                        BUT...     you're not that important to them

You get the picture... a little progress here can pay off in higher sales!


"Half of being cool is doing what nobody else is doing."

-My friend Tommy Nelson

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5 Reasons You've Gotta Love to Fish to Execute Strategy

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strategy intersection

I just finished a great article in Harvard Business Review called "What is Strategy, Again?" by Andria Ovans (an HBR editor). Andria outlines  seminal articles and books on strategy.

Now I view strategy as fishing the intersection of Technology, Market and  Business (TMB) for a "Theory of the Company".  Many of the books Andria references are in my 60 Minute Marketing MBA Presentation .

The article  groups 40 years of strategy books, journal articles  and consultants.  They fall under these three headlines...

1) Do Something Different

2) Build upon what you already do

3) React opportunistically to emerging possibilities






ducati_turnHer article lead me to another HBR article "Why Strategy Execution Unravels - and What to do About It" by McGrath & McMillan .   Their research from 8,000 managers in 250 companies found five myths people had about execution.  The research is continuing along with experiments at 40 companies where they make changes and  measure the impact on strategy execution. Here are the five common myths they've found:

1) Execution equals Alignment

- rowing in the same direction, "smart" goals, KPI's/MBO's,  adequate funding ...ISN'T IT

2) Execution Means Sticking to the Plan

- grit and gutting it out...ISN'T IT

3) Communication equals Understanding

- regular communication to reinforce goals...ISN'T IT

 4) A Performance Culture Drives Execution

- Israeli commando, seal team 6, never miss a beat...ISN'T IT

 5) Execution Should be Driven from the TopExecution_Bossidy

- Larry Bossidy, TJ Rogers, Henry Nicholas kick butt "I'll show you                                discipline"...ISN'T IT

So what is it?

I've noticed execution problems at even well run companies when trying to execute a strategy, which led me to some observations.

1) Since strategy is fishing a set of Technology, Market and Business (model) choices to  filter opportunities, focus resources and build ecosystems, then having STUDIED ALL POSSIBLE TECHNOLOGY, MARKET and BUSINESS OPTIONS, WHAT HAS AND HASN'T WORKED IS NECESSARY TO DEVELOP TRUE EXPERTISE ( the space is not that big and can be pared down heuristically pretty readily).

"True expertise requires making all possible mistakes"  -Neils Bohr

2) I've observed that a clear strategy in the hands of the senior people when the company gets big doesn't usually work.  McGrath &McMillan identify "Distributed Leaders" that get things done inside and outside the company as the key players, not just senior management.  The org chart is not a map of power and influence in a company. In fast changing environments those closest to decisions need a strategic compass.

The Distributed Leaders  need to learn and love to fish for the possible TMB combinations that fit their company. They need to love learning and talking about TMB strategies so they can synthesize ON-THE-FLY the agile decisions today's organizations need to make.  New management paradigms like Holacracy  as practiced by Tony Hsieh @ Zappos go much farther than I'm describing, but has ways to structure some of the same ground.

Bottom line is that the Distributed Leaders must love the strategy fish and learn the essence of what has worked, what hasn't and why.


Distributed Leadership needs a lesson in Love






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How do customers recognize the truth?

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Image result for truth

Marketing (marcom in particular) is communicating  about your product and company things that customers  believe are true n'est pas? Therefore, understanding how customers recognize truth is a pre-cursor to believable communications.

I've found three groups of people who've worked "truth" really hard. Religious, philosophers and mathematicians. Apparently there are ..... 9, NINE,  IX, 8+1 ..... different theories your customer (assuming they're people) might use to decide whether your statements are true!  Here they are:

1) Coherence                    - fits within a whole

2) CORRESPONDENCE    - proved by evidence or individual opinion in a similar context

3) Constructivist               - constructed from social processes, culturally specific

4) Consensus                    - whatever is agreed upon by a specified group

5) Pragmatic                     - verified by results of putting one's concepts into practice

6) Pluralist                         - "property" of a statement which makes a proposition true

7) DEFLATIONARY           - assertions of truth don't mean anything,  they're a tool of discourse                                                     to emphasize claims or form generalizations (also called Minimalist)

8) Redundancy                - asserting something is true is the same as asserting the real thing

9) EPISTEMIC                    - notion of truth is epistemic (all of the above)

Whew...there you go.  Now we know what to do.

If it helps, mathematicians thought they were on the most solid ground before Godel's incompleteness theorems http://goo.gl/Z50liu now they'd rather not talk about it.

Wait there's more ... "according to a survey of professional philosophers in November 2009 (taken by 3226 respondents, including 1803 philosophy faculty members and 829 philosophy graduate students) 44.9% of respondents accept or lean towards CORRESPONDENCE theories, 20.7% accept or lean towards DEFLATIONARY theories and 13.8% EPISTEMIC theories." (I'm not sure what happened to the other 20.6% maybe they told them to buzz off).

Here's your takeaway....

1)  ~45% of your audience will find 3 or 4 independent testimonial sources that corroborate your pitch (customers, thought leaders, editors, bankers, car salesmen etc) credible

2) ~20% will think you're just BS'ing to make a point

3) ~15% will think that it's all so complicated whatever anyone believes is cool

4) ~20% won't show up (read or listen)Image result for truth


"The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of profound truth may be another profound truth"          -Niels Bohr

"A lie makes a problem part of the future, the truth makes a problem part of the past."                                                                         - Quote from YMCA Camp Marston


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How many strategies are there?

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Twenty?  As many as there are companies?

At the highest level of competitive differentiation there are 3 (but it is still hard to get it right).

Technology changes...strategy doesn't.  Change happens faster....strategy doesn't.





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"Plan" vs "Strategic Plan"

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PlanWhat's the difference between a plan and a strategic plan? Most companies, departments and people have a plan. So what's unique about adding the word "Strategic". It is not just an adjective, added to appear more sophisticated or smarter. It should change the content and mold objectives as well as articulate action steps.

Here's why:

1) Critical Environmental variables WILL change over the "planning horizon"

2) Actual outcomes will MOST LIKELY be different (sometimes  a lot, sometimes a little)

3) It should FORBID certain resource allocations to enhance the CONCENTRATION of them

4) Plans are NEVER FULLY ACHIEVED  but assume a next interval of time sequence

A "Plan" can assume the critical environment it is operating in will remain relatively stable over the "planning horizon". A "Strategic Plan" cannot and should not. Liddell Hart in his military strategy classic has a chapter on "The Concentrated Essence of Strategy and Tactics".  Out of 8 items he includes "Take a line of operation which offers alternative objectives" which is rarely understood among business strategic planners.



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