Contrarian Competitive Strategies

March 15th, 2011   •   no comments   

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Have you noticed how businesses, like humans, tend to adopt a herd mentality? Some examples:

– Opening and closing hours of retail shops (normally 10 am to 10 pm, with extended hours only during festive breaks)

– Provision of banking services, which tend to aggregate towards rigid operating hours, e-banking, ATMs and automated payment kiosks

– Taxi operators bunching towards a cost per distance model, with all the relevant surcharges imposed

– Credit cards and loyalty programmes trending towards a mixture of discounts, rebates, redemptions and points

Against such a backdrop, new businesses may find that they are constrained by the prevailing status quo to try anything new. After all, what would the market think? How would your customers behave?

Is there a way to escape from the vicious negative spiral of uniformity, commoditisation and plain ole ‘blah’ness?

Here’s a thought.

Consider introducing new parameters that shift the game in favour of your customers. Remove the obstacles to consumption nirvana and they would reward you for it.

Some immediate examples I can think of:

– Assisting customers to fill in their particulars automatically by investing in an ID scanning machine. No more hassle with pen and paper!

– Cleaning your premises only during the offpeak periods so that visitors do not trample all over your wet toilets and leave unsightly footprints all over.

– Focusing your attention not just on the paying adults who visit your restaurant but their kids and elderly parents. Trust me when I say that the surest way to a customer’s heart is through their kids or their beloved seniors.

– Tuning the radio in your taxi to the station of your customer’s preference, or asking him or her what he or she wishes to listen to.

To succeed in a hyper competitive market, you cannot just keep up with the Joneses. Instead, reinvent the rules in your customers’ favour, and focus in particular on the oft-neglected pain points of your customers.

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