#11 Follow the leader is a dangerous game, particularly when you follow Hippos…

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Entrepreneurs often make the mistake of focusing the majority of their attention on what their competitors are doing instead of gaining first hand market data. When entrepreneurs play “follow the leader” they are playing a dangerous game that assumes the perceived market leading competitor is connected to the needs and pains of market buyers.

Market leaders are aware of competitor activity; however they plan their strategy with first hand market data.

 

Market losers set out to do what their competitors are doing…but better.

 

When you copy what your competitors are doing you are making one key erroneous assumption: that your competitor knows your market, your buyers, and your buyer’s buying process. ( which is often not the case)

If we recognize most marketing is developed at board room tables with gut , intuition and “back when I was in the market…” information following your competitor is a dangerous game to play.Or as David Daniels put it in his eBook : Is your Product Launch Doomed?…” Mimicing a competitor can lead to lost market opportunity, misdirection of resources, and loss of focus…”

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More often than not marketing strategy is made by HIPPOS; the Highest Paid Person in marketing’s Opinions.

 

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For example, I had to run some errands in Mesa Saturday and imagine my surprise when I returned to my car and I saw a sea of purple windshield fliers in the parking lot creating marketing litter. In my recent post I discussed how we must make sure when we Chase new business we do so in a way consistent with our brand and our brand promise.

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I shared how Chase Bank used a purple windshield wiper flier to drive new accounts at month end in my last post. Do the leaders at TCF Bank think Purple windshield fliers ( Like Chase Bank) is an industry best practice since one of the market leaders does it? Or was the nimble , much smaller TCf Bank’s efforts the reason Chase Bank tried this strategy?

You have been in those meetings…everyone on the cross functional team share their views , and then the highest paid person in the room (hippo)  calls an audible from left field based on their gut and or what a market leading competitor is currently doing ( after they are real smart right?). The cross functional team is left scratching its collectives heads as strategy direction is made based on the gut and past experience of the highest paid person in the room.

 

Market leaders gather first hand market data and shape their strategy based on current information.

 

They say ; “rational people, if given the right data will make rational decisions” .What we learn in “rational choice theory” that people make decisions about how they should act by comparing the costs and benefits of different courses of action. Patterns of behavior will develop within the society those results from those choices. The society in this case is competing suppliers battling for market share each day.

 

 

Decisions made with first hand current market data drive successful strategies.

 

 

Strategies that are initiated based on what market leading competitors do often fail.

 

 

How about your organization….

 

 

Are Hippo’s calling an audible that lacks market data justification?

 

 

Does your marketing team kick off campaigns that mirror what market leaders in your industry are doing?

 

…how’s that working for you?

 

  

Are your sales tools built by corporate Hippos who have not met with a customer in over six months…twelve months?

 

 

Playing follow the leader is a dangerous game, particularly if your Hippos insist you mirror a competitor with the assumption the competitor must know what they are doing.

 

Smart entrepreneurs are aware of what the 800 lb gorilla in their market is doing, but do not blindly mirror their strategies and tactics.

 

Smaller competitors are often more connected to the needs of their market and more nimble.

Have you mirrored a competitor and it drove sales that surpassed your ROI goals?

Can you share a Hippo based initiative that mirrored a competitor and failed miserably?

Besides,when you choose  follow , competitor and or a Hippo,the view rarely changes,..ad the outcome often stinks.

 

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Mentor Moment #5: Brand with Intention or the Market will “Brand you by Default”

 

The reason I wrote my first book in 2007 was to solve a problem a number of businesses had; they did not intentionally brand their product or service in the minds of those in their market(s) and the net result was the market” branded them by default”.Branding_Backwards_-_thumb

After I workout in the morning I like to relax in the steam room. Today I entered the misty dim lit room to wind down after my workout and noticed someone else sitting in the far corner. We exchanged pleasantries and very quickly he asked the common question; “So what do you do for a living?” I answered as I have done for years and then it was my turn…”what do you do?” His answer was symptomatic of why I wrote my first book titled: Branding Backwards; a Brand’s Odyssey Toward Self-Discovery. He stated … “I am in real-estate” and he stopped there. I try not to engage in what could be long conversations in the steam room, particularly days like today when someone had jimmied the thermostat and it was excessively hot.

Do I tell him that what he just said really does not help me understand the problems he solves? Ah …what the heck (I did bring my water bottle)…. So I asked some additional questions and found he was not someone who helped homeowners sell their personal property, but someone who owned a real-estate development company that develops commercial real-estate throughout North America in a very specific niche.

This quick conversation reminded me how critical it is for businesses to clearly articulate their brand, and the problems they solve for their market. (Even more so in this economic climate) Fail to do so and the market will “brand you by default”, and there is a high probability they will get it wrong.

As in this example, very quickly when he said he was in real-estate, I mentally branded him as someone who helps consumers sell their personal property. I mentally logged his name in my referral database in the event someone I know may need that service. It was not until after my additional questions I understood what his company does.

I offer 10 tips to avoid Branding Backwards in my book,  the first is;

“If you do not state who you are, others in the marketplace will create a mental image of how you may or may not be able to meet their needs”

If you would like to download a free copy of my book you can do so here.

(I want to warn you, I wrote it in the form of a story. I find stories seem to stick with people much more than just stating facts.)

How about your company? Can your targeted new customers and or existing customers clearly articulate the problems your product or service can solve for them, or are you branding by default? Over the years I have found it disturbing when I engage with a new sales team how quickly and concisely the salespeople can explain what problems their competitors products solve and do not solve, and yet when asked to describe the products that fill their own commission rice bowls each week they ramble on and on with features, benefits, and how their company is the market leader…and better than….that is not what I asked!

Is your company Branding with intention, or by default?

If I were to ask one of your customers what problems you solve, would they get it right? Would they clearly understand all you solve?

Ask your one of your salespeople today; “What problem does our competitor ________’s product solve for our customers? “

Now ask them “what problem do our products solve?”

Ask people in your market you have never sold to tell you what problems they think you solve…what did they say?

Can you afford for your market to get what problems your company or its specific products and or services solve for them?