Every strength is a weakness

When you’re looking at the competitive landscape, it’s good to remember that in every strength lies a potential weakness.  That’s true of your competitors, and that’s true of yourself.  Your success depends on exploiting the weakness that lies inside your competitor’s strength and preventing the competitor from doing the same to you.

Let’s say you’re the market share leader in your category.  That’s a strength.  The weakness is that your customers by definition will be more varied than your offering and a competitor can target segments more specifically than you can.  If you have lots of revenue, a strength, the weakness is that you can’t make moves that might endanger that revenue.  An extensive feature set has the weakness that someone can beat you on ease of use by focusing on a few key tasks or solution sets.  Clear positioning has the weakness of locking you into that position even when the market changes or new opportunities arise.  Even assets like a large sales team or a hefty budget have the weakness that you tend to lose your agility and responsiveness and everything becomes cookie-cutter rather than customized.

The reason exploiting the weakness in strength is so important is that your competitor will never walk away from that asset.  After all, it’s a strength.  And that means you can continue to exploit this weakness for years to come, slowly grinding away at your competitor with it.

Let’s take an example.  Say you’re second or lower in a market with a dominant leader.  That leader has a strength, which is broad appeal to buyers in this category.  Great.  That means you can identify one or more segments with specific interests or needs in the category, gear your product offering to them specifically, and promote yourself as the solution that is special just for them.  The market leader won’t be able to back away from its position as the solution for the broadest set of customers and therefore will be hamstrung in fighting back.

That’s the basic exercise, and I’ve found that there are always opportunities to turn a strength back against a competitor.  And likewise sometimes they have turned my strengths back against me.  It’s marketing judo, and it’s a key weapon in your arsenal.

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