Operating in a Competitive Vacuum

What’s the biggest hole in your marketing?

If you said lead generation, you would be in the majority.

But, like the majority, odds are, you’d be wrong…

The dirty little secret among marketing consultants is that lead generation is what most business owners think they need, when in reality what they need is a lot more complex.

Look at companies like Apple, Nike, Amazon, Patagonia, Southwest Airlines – companies that were where you are now at one point in their progress…

And guys like Jobs, Knight, Bezos, Chouinard, Kelleher… well who wouldn’t want to have the selling advantage each one now has in their market?

They have all done more to declaw, defang and defuse their competition than most companies ever dream of doing.

Consider the fees airlines charge. Ever had to change a date or even time of day on a plane reservation? Virtually all airlines ding you fifty to a hundred bucks. Just for occupying an empty seat on another jet at another time.

Every company but one.

Why does everybody else charge you? How much could it possibly hurt them to empty one seat and fill another already empty one? Any idea? Me neither…

I guess they do it because they can get away with it, because everybody else is doing it. Short term gain – make money by taking advantage of the unequal bargaining power they have once you’ve booked with them.

But not Southwest. Why?

Another example: How come Nike doesn’t ever mention shoes, or shirts or shorts in their advertising? They relate the story of the athlete, the individual driven to excel, to “lead the field”, as Earl Nightingale would say.

Or look at Apple.

What do they sell? Computers? MP3 Players? Phones? Downloads? Jobs led Apple to “Think Different” (I suspect a play on IBM’s slogan of the 50’s, “Think”). But what Apple offers is challenge to the status quo.

Okay, so what’s your business all about? Why does it exist? What does it stand for? What difference is it making in the world?

Answer those questions – find your “Purple Cow” as Seth Godin would say – in a way that resonates with your followers, let it permeate everything you do in your market… And who can possibly compete with you?

True story: Last week, unlike most (all?) other airlines, after a mere one-minute hold time (an immediate differentiator) the guy at Southwest let me change my reservation at no charge, except a small difference in fares, less than five bucks.

It wasn’t really about the money. It was like – these guys get it about being a traveler. In that moment, I was transformed into more than mere buyer of one ticket. As I told the guy, “Man, I LOVE Southwest”.

In that moment, I was transformed into an evangelist. As far as I’m concerned, they get first dibs on all my business from now on.

And what did it cost them?

Point: Get out of the business of offering stuff that makes more sense to you than your customers, and you’re customers will literally fall in love with you. Bye-bye competition.

I look forward to hearing about YOUR greatness.