Know Your True Competition

By Rod Griffith
December 14, 2015

... and stop trying to outrun the bear

The classic joke goes something like this:

Two friends, Mark and TJ, are on their annual camping trip together in the remote wilderness when early one morning, Mark is woken out of his sleep by the sounds of something very large prowling around the tent. The sheer size of the animal and its grunting sounds told Mark instantly that this is a grizzly bear - a very dangerous animal.

So Mark quickly awakens TJ in an alarmed whisper, "Get up, TJ! There's a grizzly outside our tent!" While TJ gets up, Mark is clearly starting to panic; his breathing accelerates as his eyes frantically scan the tent for any kind of weapon he may use to fend off the fierce beast.

Meanwhile, TJ has quietly pulled his legs out of his sleeping bag, and is beginning to slowly put on his sneakers. Now hyperventilating with sheer panic, Mark looks over and notices TJ calmly lacing up his sneakers.

Shocked at TJ’s lack of alarm, Mark asks “What are you doing?? You can’t outrun a grizzly bear! It can run at least twice as fast as you!!”

TJ looks up at Mark and says, “It’s not the grizzly bear that I need to outrun.” 

Know Your True Competition

While Mark wrongly assumed his competition was the grizzly bear, TJ knew his true competition.

Unfortunately, many B2B marketers today don’t know their true competition. As a test, write down the name of your top three true competitors in order of formidability. That is, to whom will you lose the most business to this year?

Go ahead, I’ll wait…

...Okay – are you done?

Did you write down “the decision to do nothing” in the number one slot? If you’re a B2B technology marketer, chances are you should have.

And that’s because you are far more likely to lose business because a potential customer has decided not to implement your solution (or otherwise continue on their own). In fact, studies show that the decision to do nothing (status quo) is responsible for up to 60% of all sales deals lost.

Tips for Facing Your True Competitor: The Decision to Do Nothing

In the classic camping joke, Mark’s big mistake was placing all of his focus on the grizzly bear – while TJ understood that the real competition was Mark – not the grizzly. Too often, technology marketers may focus most of their marketing efforts and attention on positioning themselves against the well-known market leaders. They may, after all, offer distinct advantages over the industry leaders. They may have newer, superior technology, a more well-suited niche solution (and focused expertise), and/or the ability to offer more personalized attention and service. But in overlooking their true competition – the decision to do nothing – they can end up reducing their sales potential by not addressing the customer’s tendency to do nothing.

Here are some tips to help you address the status quo head on:

1. Create a compelling reason for action.
Help customers understand why moving forward with your solution (or implementation) is the right choice for their business success and professional success. Understand their strategic business goals and, in turn, help them understand action is absolutely necessary to help them reach those goals in the timeframe they desire.

2. Don’t be afraid to leverage fear – it’s still a powerful sales motivator.
Educate customers on the risks of doing nothing. Help them see that continuing with the status quo is a dangerous gamble that is far too risky and will not help them overcome challenges or address the goals they most need to meet. Paint a picture of what the potential result of doing nothing could lead to. This may include lost business (or business opportunity), weakening competitive stance, missed critical deadlines, deteriorating customer satisfaction (and reputation), overstressed workforce or resources (increasing the risk of mistakes), delayed ability to reach key goals, and many other possible consequences.

3. Determine and highlight the weaknesses in the decision to do nothing.
With any major competitor, you need to know their weaknesses, place a spotlight on them, and contrast those weaknesses with your offering. Similarly, the same effort needs to occur when focusing on the decision to do nothing. Identify the weaknesses in the argument for doing nothing (if you’re selling services, this may include the argument for doing it themselves). Then contrast those weaknesses against your offering. Illustrate how their business (and professional life) will be improved by the purchase/implementation of your product. Emphasize the goals they will be able to achieve more successfully – and sooner.

4. Support your case.
As with any sales effort, you must be readily able to support your case against the decision to do nothing (and the risks) with industry statistics, anecdotes, customer proof points and testimonials, and other supporting proof points. Case studies that show the downside and risks of doing nothing are particularly useful. Where possible, leverage upcoming regulatory changes or other industry factors that are likely to accentuate the risks and pains involved with doing nothing.

The bottom line is: don’t lose sight of your true competition in your sales messaging and marketing efforts. It’s not always the big, industry-leading vendors that make up your most formidable competition. The decision to do nothing is a very compelling decision for most people. After all, it requires the least amount of work and requires no immediate change (at least not in the short term). And for many people who fear the unknown of change, there is an emotional preference for the current state of affairs (known as “Status Quo Bias”).

To break this emotional barrier, marketers must find and highlight the risks involved with doing nothing – and help customers clearly see that action (toward the purchase of your solution) is the stronger, more compelling, safer and smarter decision.

If you lose sight of your true competition, you may end up having a bear of a time trying to build your market share. [Sorry, I couldn’t resist.]