Who Is Your Most Dangerous Competitor?
By: Emilio Macasaet III
“We have been struggling to be more cost efficient in our marketing and sales programs while our competitors seem to have bottomless supplies of resources. I’ve attended your seminar entitled The7 Building Blocks of A Winning Sales Teamwhere you discussed how to effectively formulate winning sales strategies through insight-based customer segmentation. This new lens of looking at strategy has changed a lot of things in the way we operate. However, our competitors continue to bombard customers with supports we couldn't afford to even just match. I remember you discussed about the need to identify who our real competitors are per segment. Maybe our team is looking at the wrong competitors.” – Vincent Craig
I often define strategy as a choice where, when, and how to play to win. This acknowledges the fact that resources are always limited, and there’s no company oozing with resources (i.e. time, money, people, energy) from a bottomless pit. This inescapable reality forces us to carefully choose where to play in the belief that our choice will lead us to win versus our most dangerous competitor.  It also suggests where we shouldn't play.

The idea is to concentrate resources on that definitive choice until we pin victory to the bud. I am not sure if your marketing and sales programs have been directed towards a narrowly focused target customer segment.  You can be efficient in budget spending but not necessarily effective in achieving your desired outcome. Likewise, there’s a tendency to spread resources too thinly especially when we are looking at the wrong competitors. Where do you want to play to win? Who are playing there?

Where do you want to play to win?In my seminar, The7 Building Blocks of A Winning Sales Team, I emphasize the need for deeper customer segmentation if we desire to uncover unmet and under-served needs of customers or prospects. I also teach how to appropriately segment customers and channels. The sales team needs to prioritize which segments to penetrate and dominate first, and decide where to concentrate limited resources one step at a time. A very fast-moving tropical fruit drink with yummy bits of coconut jelly first focused on penetrating major convenience stores in GMA.  Now it is well entrenched also in leading Supermarkets nationwide. A UK-based Tea brand successfully waded through the Philippine market by focusing first on institutional accounts like Hotels. Now it’s also present in major supermarkets. A Paris-based cosmetics brand started to penetrate the mid to upper class salons first before conquering key department stores. The lesson is clear. A person who chases two rabbits catches neither. Agree on your priority customer segments and timelines when you have to attack and dominate. From here, identify your most dangerous competitor.

Who is your most dangerous competitor? Most salespeople have been wired to think that their most dangerous competitors are those companies directly competing against their products and brands on a national scale. Coke versus Pepsi. Gatorade versus Powerade. Nescafe versus Kopiko. Century Tuna versus San Marino. Palmolive versus Sunsilk Shampoo. Phelps Dodge versus American Wire. La Farge Cement versus Holcim. Philips versus Electrolux appliances. The default mode is to look at the natural enemy.
While this is true in a national scale, this is not necessarily true in every sales territory and each customer segment. Your most dangerous competitor is the one who is also bent in occupying and dominating your priority customer segments. This competitor has also decided to choose to play to win in the same segments you want to conquer. For example a corn-based snacks brand is quietly dominating computer gaming shops in a territory in South Luzon. How would you know your competitor’s priority segments?

Investigate, understand, outsmart your most dangerous competitor per segment.In the military, they say that intelligence precedes operations. Do your homework well. Gather relevant information. Observe the common behavior of each customer segment and how your competitors serve them. What supports and programs do your competitors usually offer each segment? Where are they concentrating their resources? Are they consistent? Are they also spreading themselves thin? Which of your competitors are more focused and relentless in each particular segment? Why?

Allocate Marketing and Sales Budget.You need to support your strategy. Allocate the most significant resources to your priority segments and focus your efforts there. Do not dilute your efforts and supports. Just concentrate until you're able to install your victory banner in that segment. Do it one step at a time. Brick by brick. Don't be tempted to build your plane while flying it. Focus on your core segment. God bless you and more power!
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Emilio “Bong” Macasaet III is a Partner and the Chief Distribution Strategist at Mansmith and Fielders, Inc., the only advocacy-based training and consultancy firm focused on sales, marketing, strategy and innovation. Visit www.mansmith.net for the course outline, registration and investment fees. For other queries, write to info@mansmith.net or call 02-5845858.