Compete and Win - How to Leverage Behavioral Barriers and Business Strategy
In our high tech and connected global economy it can seem like competition has never been more fierce until you step back and look at the situation from a different angle.
How do most people destroy their ability to win?
The majority of people are following the crowd instead of finding their own way and developing their strengths until they achieve mastery. The obvious but overlooked irony is that if you are a follower you will never be a leader, you will never be the one that others look up to and follow.
And the tendency of the follower is to jump on every new trend, consume social media all day long and get so distracted that you lose your own identity and unique perspective. Consequently, we have a world of people who are making themselves redundant by consuming what every else is consuming and by absorbing the popular opinions shared by everyone else. It doesn’t take long before your outlook is no longer your own, you lose your unique perspective, that viewpoint that empowers you to be different and to make a difference that counts.
A related issue is the prevalence of distracted and shallow thinking. When you’re always responsive to notifications and updates you destroy the ability to think deeply, to ponder and reflect, and you become a drone instead of a creative, inspired and deep thinker.
The Winners Choice
All of this sounds like bad news but it’s not if and when you choose to take control of your thoughts. Once you decide to filter your consumption of media you’ll have time to think and time to create. You’ll go from being a distracted consumer of noise to a wonderfully creative producer of good work that reflects your own voice. You’ll spend much more time in a flow state and you’ll cultivate a momentum that fuels your inspiration and energizes all of your work.
To make this transition you need to change the way you think about the work day. Instead of focusing on total hours worked pay more attention to peak performance time spent doing your most important work. Aim to spend more time in deep concentration without interruptions and reclaim control of your day so you can actualize your true potential. Anyone who fails to do this will enjoy the empty claims of long hours worked with only confusion and incremental progress to show for it.
As the playing field becomes even more level and as global competition increases there will be few barriers to entry to stop skilled knowledge workers in both the established economies and developing nations from out competing established workers in the world’s leading economies. However there are a few behavioral barriers to entry that will allow you to thrive if you can face the issues that most people prefer to avoid.
The first factor is the ability to do hard work rather than working hard. Working on hard problems is challenging because the threat of failure and the importance of the work leads to stress and self doubt that we would rather avoid. If you are one of the few who is happy to take on responsibility and get stuck in you’ll soon find the road to success becomes less crowded because most people prefer to stay busy on day to day tasks instead of risking failure by working on hard problems.
The second factor is the willingness to proceed in the face of uncertainty. When there is little to no evidence you will succeed and you have no indicators of interest it takes tremendous faith in your own abilities to persist and give 100% when few people share your vision of possibility. This requires a tenacity that is rare, it’s a valuable personal trait that enables you to be bold and follow through while others who lack vision get out of your way.
The third factor is being open to feedback. Oftentimes successful people start to believe their own hype, their hubris and impressive track record prevents them from paying attention to unfavorable data and it often stops them from truly listening to feedback. Pride and a conviction that success is inevitable can lead to certain failure if this is not addressed. It takes courage to ask for and then listen to feedback but this openness can be cultivated if you trust the source of the feedback and if you learn to distinguish between feedback on an idea and feedback on your skills and abilities.
How to Compete and Win Even in Highly Competitive Markets
Build a Moat
Warren Buffett is regarded as the greatest investor of our time and he is know to be a shrewd investor in companies, he can tell what they’re worth and he can evaluate their long term potential. Buffett looks to invest in companies that have a moat or a unique advantage that protects their market position.
A moat could be intellectual property, exclusive access to a particular market or it could be a superior production process that others cannot imitate. Regardless of the nature of the competitive advantage this is a principle you can use to evaluate new business opportunities and it’s a great way to assess the viability of continuing to operate in your current market.
If you don’t have a moat it’s just a matter of time before another player will emerge to compete against you and take market share from you. For that reason you must learn how to compete and win.
13 Simple Ways to Compete and Win
You must define your unique selling proposition and base your marketing around the key difference you offer to the marketplace. A clear identity that appeals to the values of your target market is hard to compete against.
Sell a product to acquire a customer. Then do all you can to delight that customer and serve them well for years to come. A database of loyal customers is one of the greatest assets you can build and it’ll add a financial stability to your business that will empower you to try new projects and to be aggressive in expanding to a larger audience.
In a fast changing world it’s an unavoidable truth that you can’t stay the same, you must keep improving and you must keep adding more value to the lives of your customers. Neglect to do so and inevitable decline will take place as your competitors outsell you. You must budget for innovation and commit to it as a strategic intent.
4. Identify Weaknesses
When your business is going well and your products are loved by your customers it’s normal to ease up and get a little complacent but this is a dangerous tendency. To go from good to great you need the willingness to face the weaknesses in your business. Look at your workforce, your business systems and your market position, and be ruthless about identifying and transforming profit threatening weaknesses into advantages if not strengths.
5. Lead with Strengths
If you’re really good at something it’s up to you to let everyone know. This is very true when it comes to marketing. It’s your responsibility to communicate your USP and your valued strengths to the marketplace so that there is no doubt about why you are a force to be reckoned with. Just make sure you back up all claims with proof in the form of testimonials, product evaluations by trusted bodies and iron clad performance guarantees.
6. Expose Competitors
You need to evaluate all of your competitors in an objective way. Identify their weak points and demonstrate to the marketplace how you perform better on all the key criteria that matter. And yes, this needs to be communicated, in the form of specific and measurable competitive advantages you offer your clients.
7. Reframe Advantages of Competitors
Competitors will often lead a sales presentation with their obvious points of difference, characteristics that sound impressive but are unimportant. They might say they are the oldest, largest or most local provider. But none of those factors proves they are the best choice yet prospects will assume that unless they dig a little deeper.
It’s up to you to take each supposed advantage and turn it upside down. Let the prospects know that the largest company will view them as just another customer, the oldest company may be slow to adapt and the local company may be slow to offer new solutions available to customers of companies from other regions. Find genuine limitations that turn any advantage into a disadvantage.
8. Unexploited Strengths
As you get to know your market and customers better you’ll find new ways to better serve them. And you’ll also realize that you have unfulfilled potential, you have latent abilities to provide a better customer experience by restructuring your operational and product delivery systems. Consider what you are capable of offering customers that you don’t currently provide. When you consider this matter from a customer’s point of view you’ll often discover new ways to build a competitive advantage.
It’s important to view your marketplace as a moving parade and not a static but slowly evolving environment. You must expect change and even more so you must proactively determine what is likely to happen next and get ready to move early before your competitors do.
To do so requires a future focus and you can cultivate this by following industry leaders in other markets and other countries. Study their approach and pay close attention to their new initiatives. Learn from their successes and failures and be ready to adopt what works.
10. Competitor Intelligence
You must develop a good understanding of your main competitors and their leadership style so you can figure out how they’ll respond to any new initiatives you launch. If you drop price, who will follow your lead and nullify the effect? If you offer more flexible payment terms, who will go beyond your offer and out compete you? Only when you know the likely responses of your competitors can you properly evaluate the strategic choices you have before you.
11. Customer Inequality
All customers are not equal and you can’t compete against every competitor to win the business of every prospect. You need to focus your resources on acquiring the most profitable customers. This narrow focus will then define your market positioning and enable you to avoid pointless competitive activity to win low spending customers. Let the less strategic players fight to get the smallest clients while you acquire the best clients and keep them by meeting their specific needs with superior products.
Great ideas inspire but it’s great implementation that builds a profitable business. However, because most business owners enjoy and prefer creative work only a small minority devote enough time to establish efficient business systems, they view it as secondary to inventing something brilliant. And so, great implementation is rare while great ideas are common place.
Once you appreciate the importance of constructing robust business systems you’ll make sure to learn how to deliver great products and build a loyal customer base, you’ll develop the capability to implement your next great idea quickly and you’ll outshine all of your competitors who stumble and delay when it’s time to innovate and ship.
13. High Standards
Winners want to work with other winners and winning companies want to buy from winning suppliers. If you are committed to selling to large organizations you need to deal with them as equals, you need to match them for high standards and a commitment to excellence. If you don’t, you’ll never progress from signing up smaller clients who are less demanding to larger accounts with demanding requirements.
Aim to be a market leader before you are, make excellence the standard by which you produce and deliver, and never be completely satisfied with your ability to provide value to your clients. Make this part of your business DNA and you’ll design products and delivery mechanisms which appeal to large companies. You’ll quickly graduate from small clients to large clients because your products will meet their exacting criteria.
To sum up the points made in this post, even though we operate in very competitive times, most people are operating in a world of self created distraction that prevents them from doing great work. And, few companies take strategy seriously.
This prevalence of poor personal performance and poor strategic intent represents a huge opportunity for anyone who is prepared to do the hard work of thinking.