How to Devour the Competition: The ONE Big Idea

How to Devour the competitionDo you want to beat the competition?

Why stop there?

This article will teach you how to devour the competition – with the unequaled ferocity of a Great White Shark.  It will teach you how to glide smoothly and effortlessly through the water — like the perfect killing machine you wish to be — until marketing success is a foregone conclusion.  And it will teach you how to do so without sacrificing pricing or profitability.

And you will learn to accomplish this important goal, by using ONE big idea.

First some background:

Since time immemorial, marketers of every type have been struggling with their competition.

According to an article by David Aaker, writing for the Harvard Business Review, the process works like this:

“When a brand sallies forth into the marketplace, there are essentially two bases on which it can compete. The first is competing on brand preference by convincing buyers to opt for Brand A over comparable Brands X, Y, and Z — and it is a tough and constant slog.  The second, competing on Brand Relevance ( a link to the  author’s book), involves presenting customers with a choice compared to which competitors’ offerings seem irrelevant. This is the route that breakthrough brands take, and is for most marketers the only route to growth and profitability.”

Mr. Aaker’s book “shows how brands such as Prius, Whole Foods Market,, Zipcar, Wheaties Fuel, Muji, Asahi Beer, GE, and Apple have turned away from destructive brand preference competition to focus on winning the brand relevance war.”

Floating over the competitionTHE ONE BIG IDEA

So what is the One Big Idea?

Does it involve, to use HBR’s example, theconstant, incremental enhancements to the offering’s attractiveness, reliability, or price, in hopes of getting buyers to take a second look at a familiar brand?”  Certainly not.

Does it require “more clever advertising, more impactful promotions, more visible sponsorships, and more involving social media programs than the competition’s?”  Again no.

It does involve making the competition irrelevant.

That does not mean that you will be floating above the competition as if they were made of stone — although that would certainly feel like success.

In fact, it involves making them disappear altogether.

But what are the practical methods for doing this, particularly for the small entrepreneur who lacks the time and resources of a major company?

No SharksNot to detract from Mr. Aaker’s exceptional book, but the One Big Idea I am referring to is a complementary concept I have been recommending to CEOs and entrepreneurs, as well as marketing managers at all levels, for over two decades.

Put simply it is this:  To devour the competition, the first step is to remove yourself completely from the shark-infested waters.

Sound good, but impossible?  Well, it isn’t easy.  But with creativity, imagination and innovation it is a marketing target you can hit.


Let me use an example from my own professional background.  In the late 80s and early 90s, I was a Senior Vice President of a new marketing subsidiary of very large — and profitable — multinational insurance company.  At the time, the company was home to 40,000 employees and an enormous asset base.   Among my functions was the creation and implementation of marketing and sales strategies for a new series of voluntary, employee-paid insurance plans, for large employee groups.  (I know that sounds hopelessly boring by today’s standards, but bear with me.)

The immediate problem, as a new entrant into an already saturated market, was to gain any traction at all against well-established competitors, with long-standing customer connections.  The simple, traditional approach would have been to bulldoze the competition, by improving on their products and then out-spending them.  But even with our size advantage, the sales process ultimately came down to a basic sales dilemma.  Our regional managers and brokers found themselves in long lines of similar sales people, standing in a hopeless mass outside the office of the corporate employee benefits managers.  The waters were shark-infested with competing sales people — arguing over price, products and services.

The solution required innovation, so total as to remove all of the sharks from the water.

After extensive research, I discovered a little known federal statute in the ERISA law, (Employee Retirement Income Security Act), called the 79-41 ERISA Exemption. It provided that under certain circumstances, and after filing for approval by the Department of Commerce, exempt companies could make a profit from their own employee benefit plans.  We developed a process by which the exempt company, through its offshore reinsurance entity, would reinsure the resulting policies and share in the underwriting profits.

Here was the result:  All of the other sharks continued to circle around the employee benefits managers, arguing price.  We bypassed the shark-infested waters altogether — meeting instead with the CEOs and CFOs.  The other sharks were debating cost — often price differences in pennies with each other.  As a total departure, we were offering the client companies substantial profits instead.  There was no contest.

We had made the competition irrelevant.

We had removed ourselves completely from the shark-infested waters.


Regardless of your product, service or market, with a little creativity you can find a hidden competitive edge to exploit.  It doesn’t have to be as complex or technical as the above example — it can be a very simple.  Just find something compelling and exclusive, that sets you apart from everyone else.

For example, my personal competitive edge is the fact that I have run online businesses successfully for twenty years, and before that ran major, multinational marketing efforts as a corporate officer.  Very few of today’s Social Media strategists can say that.  Given the choice, most entrepreneurial customers would choose long experience over little.  Often, that effectively removes me from the shark-infested waters.  (An ocean, incidentally, replete with “Social Media sharks” — currently numbering in the thousands.)

With a little creativity and innovation, you can do the same.

Getting in touch with me is very easy

Have a question? Or just want to chat about your business? Simply call the number below. During normal business hours (8 AM – 5 PM Scottsdale, Arizona time) it is my direct line. Otherwise, just leave a message. If you would prefer to exchange email I would love to here from you. Just email or click the email badge below. I promise I will get back to you within 24 hours.

Michael R.H. Stewart, President, Jericho Technology, Inc.

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About Michael R.H. Stewart
"Give me faith, freedom, resources, and a little time ... and I will make things happen that matter." Michael R.H. Stewart is a respected Internet executive with broad experience in all aspects of online business, with an emphasis given to social networking development, and company management. He has over 131,000 engaged Twitter followers. He enjoys 22 years of direct experience with corporate, entrepreneurial, governmental and non-profit clients, having advised them on all aspects of their online initiatives. Prior to his Internet career, he served as a Senior Vice President of AIG Marketing, doing business in 135 foreign countries as well as the United States. Stewart is an experienced public speaker and communicator, with worldwide experience; an expert on corporate branding; an accomplished writer, a creative thinker and problem solver.


4 Responses to “How to Devour the Competition: The ONE Big Idea”
  1. RealtyGo says:

    Great Article, reminds me very much of Apple, and their business idea(s) ; Remove yourself from the competition. Often a risk, but if you believe and others believe in what you have, then you may really have something special!

    “If u hire people because they can do a job they’ll work for your money, if u hire people that believe what u believe they’ll wrk 4 blood sweat & tears”

    RealtyGo – Your Real Estate Listings Best Friend!

  2. Thank you very much for your interest and compliment. I truly appreciate it. It’s very encouraging to be put in the same reply as Apple, one of the great innovators of our time. Please come back often, and let me know by reply if there is any subject you would like to see in future articles. I would enjoy getting to know you and your business better, when you have a spare moment. Regards, Michael.

  3. Fatima says:

    Powerful post as usual. What makes me different is ‘where I go you go’ When my business / service is linked with those I represent or who assist me, I take them with where-ever I go. I want everyone to benefit and succeed. This world is big enough for all.

  4. Thank you, Fatima. That is a very practical and worthwhile way of doing business. It will serve you well.

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