Competition is eternally existential. We compete for love, money, attention, fame, wealth, recognition, and sometimes, we even compete for food. Turns out humans aren’t the only species who must to compete to survive. All living things must do it. Even trees in a deep forest compete for sunlight by growing as quickly as possible forgoing width for height.
What I find most interesting about competition is how we or any being chooses to do it. When a competitor catches us unaware, they usually achieve this through using some form of subterfuge. Like growing in a smaller segment of the market. Focusing on a neglected geography. And the really smart competitors disguise what they are doing so you don’t even see them coming. A little like Google has done to Microsoft who was overly focused on the ‘desktop’, while the world was moving to web app’s and gathering and storing of information externally.
I noticed this phenomenon first hand recently. My business was moving along swimmingly (which in this case is my tomato plantation). As you can see from the photo below. My Roma’s looked healthy and almost ready for the picking:
But upon closer inspection a competitor had been eating away at my market for quite a long time without me noticing. Once I turned around the tomato to inspect the back side of them – I was devastated to find my competition. They caught me napping and had a very big impact on my market share. As can be seen here:
How did they manage this?
- The caterpillar was smart enough to attack on the reverse side out of view.
- His color is exactly the same as the tomato proving an excellent camouflage.
- He waited till the market was already developed (by me) and the tomatoes had a reasonable size and were worth attacking – in this case risking his life over!
- In true terrorist fashion he penetrated the market at one entry point and ate it inside out. That is, the caterpillar was so deep inside the market, he was completely out of view.
None of this was by mistake. It has been driven by millennia of evolutionary survival and subsequent genetic coding. Nature is smart.
The implications for startups are many. When we start out to compete, the best thing we can do is replicate what nature does. Stay out of harms way. Stay small and unseen. Try and gain some momentum and size. If we’re lucky will have built our share of the market and be ensconced before anyone notices.
(FYI – I picked the tomatoes, and placed them in another location of the garden to let the caterpillars fight another day – they may just leave some seeds which will flourish next season!)
Got an idea for an iphone app you can’t find?
So write the brief for the app you want and can’t find, contact the developers and get it made. Get your itunes account up, choose a cheap ‘low barrier’ price, like a ‘dollar’ or so and sell that puppy. Remember it’s better to sell a $1 iphone app a lot of times than a a $5 or $10 one no times at all.
This micro-entrepreneurs opportunity is as simple as they come. Global distribution with an engaged audience – rare indeed. A classic ‘trend hijack’.
Go now – make it, sell it.
People are very time poor, or maybe just a little impatient. Regardless of which it is we have to be able to tell our story quickly.
Vanguard Investments do it in 2 seconds. Click here to see how they do it. (Watch the animation)
Even this chart below tells the story on long term ‘index’ investing. Of which Vanguard are the founding forefathers.
The recent downturn is a best a ‘blip’.
How long does your startup story take to tell? Here’s a tip – we’ve got a few seconds at most.
If you’re an entrepreneur and you’ve never been ‘people watching’, then start up blog strongly recommends a session. For a lot of reasons it’s a cool thing all entrepreneurs should do. For one, all our revered entrepreneurs are champion trend spotters. And they spot these trends a long time before they are reported in the Sunday newspaper lift outs.
Go some where busy, go somewhere where there are zillions of transactions, go somewhere sans commerce, go where families hang out, go somewhere singles hangout, look for the subgroups, watch people looking at shelves in stores – guess their decision process, see if this process is the same for all or different for all, see what they wear, see how they move, how did they get there, where are they from, bring a notepad with you and write down ideas, go places you’ve never been before…. Watch people, guess their motivations, view their life in action and then we’ll be the ones gaining life experience…. Just go and watch.
The funny thing about our world is that we are all in it every day, but very few of us are actually paying any attention to it. Step off the stage and become the director. Make it a habit to pay attention to what is going on in our world.
As entrepreneurs and marketers we are lucky. We can do our homework everywhere we go, and our start ups are the key beneficiaries.
One of our jobs in business is this:
“Make it as easy as possible for people to give us their money”
It’s already hard enough to convince people to buy our product or service, so why some businesses minimize payment options is beyond me.
photo by Mike Monteiro
Cash only, just doesn’t cut it these days. Regardless if we are on line, business to business or in retail, minimizing the payment options has this simple repercussion: It minimizes revenue.
Live example is a café in Melbourne called ‘Journal’. I had a company breakfast there and they wouldn’t accept my credit card. They even had the audacity to say ‘Who doesn’t carry cash on them?’ Answer: plenty of people. That’s fine. I’m never going there again and they missed out on around $100 this week.
Startups ought make it easy to collect revenue.
Steve – founder rentoid.com
Maybe you’re a great web designer
Maybe you’re a great coder
Maybe you’re a financial wizard
Maybe you’ve got a flair for industrial design
Maybe you’re a craftsman with unique skills
Maybe you’re great at managing and building a supply chain.
Maybe selling isn’t something you enjoy, like or even care about. Maybe making presentations is the part of business that really isn’t your thing.
Problem is this: There’s plenty of great ideas, businesses and people who never reached their full potential because the selling bit was missing.
Step forward the ‘Sandwich man’
Startup blog definition: Sandwich Man – a gun presenter and public communicator who presents the ideas and sells the dream on behalf of the business.
A sandwich man is called such, because he holds together all the good things like the bread does on a yummy sandwich. Without him all the ingredients, nutrition, ‘reason for being’ could all fall away.
A good sandwich man would start and close any business presentation to people like venture capitalists, suppliers, key accounts, customers and the media.
Quite often successful businesses are run by a team where one of the members is the tech genius and the other is the Sandwich Man. Who then communicates the ideas and vision to get people on board. Rarely people are lucky enough to have both skill sets. Regardless of which skill set we have, we always need a sandwich man. We can even bring one into the team on a needs basis.
But without one, we may end up with a great product or business which never gets the traction it deserves.
The following is a true story as told by Ender Baskin:
A few mates went out for some beers at a local bar. They were young, vibrant guys who where looking to meet some girls. Fine. One of the guys had a very cool t-shirt which said the following:
”Don’t get too excited I’m just the wingman.”
The group of boys all loved it. They thought it was very cool, awesome in fact. They were certain it could only enhance his changes of meeting a girl on said night.
As expected people ‘did’ love it. They all came up and remarked on how funny, cool and smart the t-shirt was. Only problem was, it was all the blokes who happened to remark upon it.
This parable is a a little bit like the type of advertising that wins awards. The producers and colleagues in the industry love it. Yet award winning advertisements don’t always sell the product. Cool and funny is great, often a nice bonus when communicating with our people. But if the basic objective isn’t met, we’re better off with something less cool that actually works.
Just saw this amazing grab from the film ‘Network‘ circa 1976. Watch it, then think about the opportunity of the internet and our ‘own’ global communication channels we’ve been gifted. Then start something, anything, start something which makes the world a better place. Do this and the money will follow you.
The Chief Mojo Officer, or the CMO.
Sure, I asked him what they did and here’s what he told me: (with some embellishment)
“Firstly you have to believe in mojo. If you don’t believe in mojo, then forget it. If you do, the CMO is in charge of general “Vibe Strategy”. The CMO has to make sure that the ‘vibe’ is right. There are no real quantitative measurements for mojo – you can just feel it. The CMO is the type of dude who can just feel it. They’ll know when it’s out of whack. The CMO is in charge of things which are nebulous, but actually matter. When the CMO has the general vibe grooving, the mojo is right, and revenue happens.”
Good news for startups with small staff is that we don’t have to wait for the employee head count to justify a new CMO. We can and should be doing it anyway. It’s our job!
But when you make it, I reckon it would be the best investment any company could ever make.