It may be arguable but fair to say that most businesses are either intimidated by or carelessly underestimate the competition. In most cases, it would likely be advisable to be a little more of the one and a little less of the other. Taking on a well-established market leader is cause for serious evaluation, particularly one who is attentive to potential market entrants. Even the best run businesses, while careful to not open a wide door of opportunity for new competitors, often leave the door cracked open to some or all parts of their market segments. While intimidating, opportunity rarely presents an easy target. Fear is often overcome by fully understanding the dynamics of the challenge or challenger. As Walt Disney said, “I have been up against tough competition all my life. I wouldn’t know how to get along without it.”
Studying successful competitors’ operations gives important insight as to what is working and what is not. For a market interloper, learning from your target’s successes and failures eases the up-hill, new entry path. Resolve to make your own mistakes and not repeat the ones the competition has already paid for. Analyze what makes them the leader and copy their actions. Cloning an already effective strategy is not only flattering to the originator but advantageous to the newcomer. Don’t be afraid to learn and earn from the heavy lifting already accomplished. As Tony Robbins said, “The surest way to achieve success is to model someone who is already successful.”
Evaluating a competitor requires attention to the strategies and tactics of operations over time. Fully understanding the path to success will enhance one’s perspective and avoid the cost of underestimating the scope of the challenges that lie ahead. Mark Chussil, an adjunct instructor at the University of Portland and the founder of consulting firm Advanced Competitive Strategies, says “It’s tempting to say, ‘Obviously, these people are doing a lousy job, or they wouldn’t be in trouble.’ It’s also a little dangerous. You can say, ‘I would never make those mistakes.’ But we should remember that a lot of companies have gone bankrupt — not just small ones, but big ones. They weren’t being run by idiots, and they weren’t being run by people who wanted to fail.” Successful intervention requires comprehensive knowledge about the product, the competition and the respective markets. Success dictates attention to all or none.
“Don’t bite off more than you can chew” is a time-worn sage and good advice when taking on an established market player. Existing players have the advantage of history, capital and market position. Identify underserved niche markets and focus on excelling with those segments. Resolve to identify those aspects of serving customers that the competition is unable or unwilling to perform. Be willing to be underestimated and seen as a non-threatening nuisance. Nibble away at the vulnerable edges of the beast until they are weakened and injured. Focus on capturing market subcategories and expand inward to the market core. However, a challenger should remember that while it’s easy to identify and move against competitors’ shortcomings, you risk becoming a target through the process. “A lot of companies think their objective is to kill the competition, that it’s the path to profitability,” Chussil says. “That is not the objective. Your objective is to succeed.”
Filling a need not filled is the goal. Providing a solution to consumers not satisfied by existing marketers provides opportunity to new market entrants. Even the most astute businesses leave a door cracked open to new competitors, either out of complacency or failure to identify lucrative, unfulfilled market segments. Learn as much as possible about these untapped opportunities and reap the rewards.
For more on how you can seize the benefits of untapped markets, contact the experienced strategists at Junction Creative Solutions.