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Monday, April 7, 2008

"Hit 'em Where They Ain't Week" - We've Seen the Enemy & They Don't Look Anything Like Us

Since baseball is getting into full swing, this week's posts are dedicated to one of my favorite all-time players, Wee Willie Keeler. You'll learn more about him Wednesday, but the reason he's a favorite is because of his famous strategic quote: when asked about his hitting approach, he replied, "I hit 'em where they ain't."

That approach works in so many ways strategically, we'll use it as the inspiration for the posts all week. Today's turns the quote around, concentrating on not getting hit where you ain't looking.

I spoke a couple of years ago on the same program as the then-COO from Sprint. During his presentation, he highlighted the incredible number of photographs being taken and sent via cell phones on a monthly basis.

It would have been interesting to sit inside Kodak in the years leading up to the emergence & explosion of this capability to see if cell phones were ever considered as competitive threats. I suspect they weren’t, especially since a Kodak exec I saw presenting at a Frost & Sullivan conference in early 2007 couldn’t get beyond his focus on printing things. There wasn’t much recognition of alternative means of communicating and transmitting images and the impact on Kodak.

The scary implication for any business is that not all future (or even current) competitors will “look” like you. Cell phones don’t look like cameras, and the images that they produce aren’t too conducive to printing. Yet, for capturing & sharing images, they’re a lot more functional than a traditional camera (or even an electronic one).

How can you begin to assess and project the nature of future competitive threats. Beyond cursory exploratory research, here are several questions to consider:
  • What benefits does your company deliver? If you didn’t deliver them, who else currently would / could deliver them?
  • What if your company never existed – how would customers satisfy their needs?
  • What if your industry never existed – what alternatives might develop to satisfy needs?
  • Who are the niche players in your markets today that could grow in prominence? How might they be defining your business for you right now?

We used the first benefits-oriented set of questions a couple of weeks ago at the Kansas City Business Marketing Association in looking at how Apple had disrupted other markets, yet could be disrupted itself. The exercise interestingly yielded Microsoft, Garmin, YouTube, and Louis Vuitton as all potential competitors to deliver the same benefits Apple does. That's quite a wide-ranging list!

This type of work is challenging and highly speculative. But it pays to consider, anticipate, and prepare for as many competitive possibilities as you can picture.

1 comment:

Mike Brown said...

Here's a link to a Seth Godin post about solving a different problem: