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Britt Beemer's "THE CONSUMER SPEAKS "

"Where Should I Position My Company for Short-Term and
Long-Term Growth in Todayís Competitive Marketplace?"

Many companies are public today, so analysts advise shareholders when to sell or buy additional shares when either positive or negative news surfaces about that specific industry or about the individual.

Companies scramble to make their monthly, quarterly or annual sales report look favorable in light of this close scrutiny. Often a short-term favorable report may jeopardize a long-term position, but some have the attitude "we can fix that later."

The best example of this mis-directed strategy is several of the last Christmas selling seasons when nothing new was on the store shelves and consumers walked away disappointed, buying less than what many retail analysts expected and many more retail executives hoped.

Privately owned companies also fall into this trap of being short-term driven, due to the competition from their publicly owned rivals.

With so many "chasing the store rabbit," it is understandable why consumers describe retail as looking all the same. At an alarming rate, 83% of Americans cite all furniture stores look the same, while 74% describe all retail within a specific industry as looking alike.

In preparing my book, Predatory Marketing, which was intended to address the critical issues facing business leaders today, it became imperative for me to look at their awesome challenge of surviving short-term in a very competitive world, knowing a long-term image is truly the best and only hope for corporate success in the future.

Itís easy to talk about implementing a long-term strategy, but itís more difficult when put in the context of choosing between a needed short-term objective and a far-off goal. But, it must be done. It must be done!

Most companies, according to the consumer, do nothing truly better than their competition. Most have the same merchandise, advertising and store strategy. Keeping this in mind, it should be easy to be unique. However, most trust the "safety of sameness" rather than thrusting themselves into the vastness of the unknown.

You must decide first which niche or service you fulfill best. After realizing there may be none, you must embark on the task of identifying which niche or service is important to your customers and will make a difference; then go after it. But the gut-wrenching question is really, what can you do better?

Second, where can you demonstrate your superiority from an executional, operational and marketing standpoint?

Today, being just slightly better will get you nowhere. Being better, but not marketing properly will get you nowhere. And, being significantly better only some of the time will get you nowhere.

You must be two or three times better and have an advertising strategy that cuts through the clutter and is channeled through the right media.

For example, a major mattress retailer marketed their three-day guaranteed mattress delivery well over the last half of the 1980's. They were one of the first to use delivery as a unique service. My client wanted to leverage a two-day guaranteed mattress delivery program. They had even developed a graphic element of this better offer for their print advertisement.

Here's the problem: the major player had effectively used three-day delivery as a tie-breaker for years. A two-day offer was better, but not dynamic enough to convince. Also, educating the market through newspaper, a price and item medium, is extremely difficult since television is the educational vehicle to 73% of Americans.

The optimum strategy was a TV-driven campaign running concurrently to the sale/sale event advertising telling consumers of the new same-day/next-day guaranteed mattress delivery. By shortening the delivery window to either today or tomorrow, and using television to educate the market, my client experienced strong sales success. It took six weeks to move the market, but when the new wave hit, store traffic had doubled by the end of 90 days.

Third, where can you best attack the larger market share players' strengths and win?

When you draw a sword on the king, you better be willing to go the distance! Most larger market share players are bigger for a reason. This reason must be identified because attacking a competitor in their weaker areas impresses no one. Make sure that after each competitive response, you strike harder and deeper because you only have one or few opportunities to kill the king.

For example, you are competing with a retailer who has a strong sofa selection. Then you should look at either leather or reclining sofas to develop a superior position. If they show 16 leather sofas, then you display 24. To show your commitment to the category, you can create leather sofa events and use television to show the fashion side of leather. Make your leather area in the store a true showcase of product ranging from promotional to high-end, as well as in-stock and special order options.

Don't attack a larger competitor in dining when they are known for upholstery. Go after what they are known for. As a smaller company, take full advantage of your ability to act quickly and decisively.

And fourth, put together a quick response team to build an offensive marketing attack that is on-going. Make each major competitor fear your capability to move quickly. You must empower that team, or each team member, with the ability to move mountains, if necessary, to make your smallness your competitive advantage.

Too many companies start the war, but are unwilling to respond after their large rival counter- attacks. You must know there is a likeliness that your larger competition will respond, so you must know as well, the last response always wins!

If you cannot identify a niche or service where you are clearly superior, you will live only as long as your next big sale event. If you can't do it better, know someone else will. And if you won't quickly respond to a larger competitor who resents you attacking him in his strengths, you will ultimately be swallowed by this bigger rival.

Too many companies have ignored this advice; and they have paid the ultimate price.

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