"Where Should I Position My Company for
Short-Term andLong-Term Growth in Today's 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
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
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.
It's easy to talk about implementing a long-term strategy, but
it's 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
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
Too many companies have ignored this advice; and they have paid
the ultimate price.