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Performance & Hotrod Business - December '14

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86 n Performance & Hotrod Business n December 2014 BUSINESS By Andrew Sokol n on marketing monster on the mountain Strategic Flipping, or How to Use the Weakness in Your Competitor's Strength t his month's column centers around a recent conversation I had with a busi- ness owner named Jesse. Jesse has a small business that is doing very well. He is very proud of it, but he just learned that a major franchised competitor is moving into his neighborhood. Jesse is understandably concerned. His question to me was, "How do I deal with such a big, well-known competitor?" I wanted to write about Jesse's problem this month because a lot of small busi- nesses are faced with this same problem— a national or even international chain is opening a location in their market and taking business away. Let's look at this issue in a new way. Think of your market as a geographic area, and in the middle of that area is a moun- tain that represents your industry. On the top of that mountain is a monster. The monster represents your biggest competi- tor or the industry leader who's coming into your market to take away business. Strategic Flipping: Using the Weakness in a Competitor's Strength How do you compete against such a foe? One effective method is something I call Strategic Flipping. It means to look for the weakness in your competitor's strength. Then flip it against them. Looking for the weakness in a competi- tor's strength may sound like a contradic- tion in terms, so let's look at a couple of examples to help explain this approach. We'll start with a classic. A couple of decades ago, books and articles were writ- ten about the "wars" in marketing. In par- ticular, there were the cola wars and the burger wars. The burger wars were fought between the monster on the mountain McDonald's, and the number two in the market at the time, Burger King. Burger King understood that to com- pete with a monster like McDonald's, it had to first identify the strength in the McDonald's business model. Foremost among those strengths is a reproducible system that has hamburgers waiting for you the moment you walk in the door. Burger King identified the weakness in that strength, which is lack of customiza- tion. Customers have few options about how their burger was made. Using that information, Burger King flipped that weakness into a strength and built the now classic "Have it your way" campaign, allowing customers to get their burgers any way they wanted. The Burger King campaign was highly successful and drove a sharp increase in sales and revenue for the company. Let's look at a more recent example in a different industry. Not long ago I con- sulted for a client that owned a small coffee house. Who is the monster on coffee house mountain? Starbucks, of course. When a Starbucks moved into my client's neighborhood, I recommended finding a weakness in Starbucks' strength that could be flipped and used to com- pete. What is the primary strength in the Starbucks model? Convenience. Starbucks makes all kinds of coffee conveniently available to all kinds of people. What is the weakness in that strength? Starbucks is almost always crowded. Add to that kids, loud blenders, music, orders being called out, and often crowded park- ing. The result is a weakness that includes a noisy, sometimes chaotic and at times stressful environment. So I recommended to my client that they take advantage of the weakness in Starbucks' strength by creating a percep- tion of themselves as the quiet, peaceful, relaxing place to have a cup of coffee. A calm refuge to relax, read a book, work on

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