Meet One-Punch Mickey.
In Snatch, a comedy-crime film by British filmmaker Guy Ritchie, Mickey (played by actor, Brad Pitt) is known to have the remarkable capability to knock his opponent out with a single punch. He’s not eloquent, he doesn’t even have the credentials that would make him a likely “winning” suspect (i.e. an unlicensed boxer), but he’s: quick, scrappy and precise in his execution.
Mickey has an advantage — he’s smaller and his opponent can’t see him coming. It could be said that as a small business or startup you have that same type of leverage. But do you recognize it? Or are you letting intimidating, larger and more established competitors count you out before you step into the ring?
If you’re ready, here are seven effective ways to gain a competitive advantage and knock your competition down for the count.
1. Stay in your lane.
Don’t focus so intently on competitors that you forget to pay adequate attention to your own business. Are competitive analyses helpful? Should you understand the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) of your competitive environment?
Sure … even more so in the planning stages. But at some point you have to take those learnings, interpret the data, make an assessment and then stay in your lane. Then discover and build clarity about what you do really well.
“You need to have a significant advantage to have an impact,” according to Pollenizer.com. “So [you need] to be 10 times better than the alternative.” Ben Yoskovitz, VP Product at GoInstant, makes an excellent point in his KISSmetrics post. “The data you collect may be helpful at some point; but if you can’t cut out the noise, you’ll get buried. That’s why you should think about a single metric that’s most important for the stage of your company’s development, a single number that you want the entire company to focus on and improve upon. I call it the One Metric That Matters.”
You develop your knockout capabilities by learning to focus in this way and stay in your lane.
2. Execute like you mean it.
“It’s lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believed in myself.” Muhammad AliIf you’re like me, you are constantly inundated with ideas and at times you may ask yourself, “Where’s the proverbial switch to turn this off for a moment?” But the truth is this: ideas are a dime a dozen.
But what is truly rare, is this: really superb execution. We all get better at it over time. Regardless of the stage of your company start thinking about ways to execute like you mean it.
Start small and don’t get caught in the web of analysis paralysis — the state of over-analyzing that puts you in the land of the lotus eaters. A place where you fall into a peaceful “day-sleep” and become apathetic about your ideas, plans and goals. Wake up and get it done.
3. Differentiate yourself, really well.
Can you provide your product or service in a way that is not offered by competitors — or not done well by them? If you can provide unique value that competitors don’t offer you can set yourself apart.
For example, if you realize that your competition can beat you from an R&D standpoint, can you in turn differentiate from a business development standpoint? If innovation is not your company’s strong suit, can you really set yourself apart with unique marketing tactics? If you can’t throw money at customer acquisition (like your competition), then partner up.
“Being different puts you outside the norm. You stand out either as a visionary or a fool. You won’t know which for some time,” as author Christopher Meyer suggests. But that’s the price greatness asks to be paid for taking your own path.
4. Learn the principles of distance, leverage and timing.
You may not be perceived as a real competitive threat, but you can always be a virtual one. In boxing strategy:
“Ideally, the goal is to make sure that the opponent is exactly one step behind you at all times. This gives you the initiative, as he is reacting on your movements. You can stay inside your opponent’s reach or outside it, but never let him dictate the range. This art of deception enables you to prepare a way for a hard punch: create an opening, wait for the right moment, and deliver a clean shot.”
As a small business (or startup) you have the capability to be agile, flexible and quick. You don’t have to cut through massive red tape to make a marketing decision. Nor do you have to consult a committee on a new sales plan. In theory, this means you can prepare a way for a hard punch.
In application, this means that instead of running out of steam trying to market your company the way competitors do, in lieu of trying to be a big spender or make an industry take you seriously, you’ll need to step back create an opening and deliver a clean shot.
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