There are 2 kinds of warfare: asymmetrical and stupid. —DR. CONRAD CRANE, DIRECTOR OF THE U.S. ARMY HISTORICAL SOCIETY AND AUTHOR OF THE U.S. ARMY/MARINE CORPS COUNTERINSURGENCY FIELD MANUAL
I have a client who competes with Starbucks. Or at least that is what they think. I don’t think they do because they have no argument to win. What is Starbucks good at? There are other factors at play, but these are the main ones: They fill the middle between your home and work, and they are also known for making good enough coffee.
These are not attributes where my client can make a confident argument that they can win. And my client can’t just turn itself into a roaster. And it shouldn’t.
So what to do? The answer is simple but difficult: You do what the other guy can’t or won’t.
From a superficial view, my client is in the “co-working” business. What they want to do, is persuade the people “who go to Starbucks to work”, to come work at their co-working place. We are devising new ways to creating another option by answering this question: What argument can you win? And, is this argument valuable enough for people?
They do have some strong reasons why they should do that. The key, is making them relevant to other people.
Create value in the cant’s and wont’s
A lot of businesses find themselves in this same situation where they are, directly or indirectly, competing against a larger and established competitor. There is this inherent tendency to match up with the other guy through outright or selective copying. But this isn’t the way to go about it.
To see further and deeper, you don’t benchmark against competitors, you benchmark against companies outside your industry to help you see other options. That is how you begin to create asymmetric differentiation. Of course, just being different for the sake of it should not be your motivation. Your motivation should be aligned to the wants and needs of people.
To be clear, I’m not saying benchmarking against competitors should not be done. You should benchmark against them to find areas where they are weak and then figure out a way to do that better. And that, is where it should end.
It is the same on the web. I’ve been asked about how to create a relevant presence online plenty of times. My answer always starts with these questions: What is your believable, relevant, and ownable? What do people believe to be true about you? What business are you really in?
Focus on that.
The point: Do what the other guy can’t or won’t, and figure out a way to create value there. Better to be perceived as different than as same.
Image credit: Jessica Hagy