By Tom Dougherty
Marketing Wisdom of Napoleon
Winning in business today means growing your market share — I don’t care how mature or immature your market segment appears to be, your long-term success means that your share will grow only at your competitors’ expense.
We should all consider our success by two measures;
1) Our own sales growth, and
2) Our market share in relation to our competitor’s share. However, many of us continue to play a defensive strategy, try to wait out the uncertainty and take a “wait and see” attitude as changes and shifts in the marketing landscape spells opportunity to the winning few. We could not help but remember Napoleon’s admonition that the “logical end of defensive warfare is surrender.” With that in mind, we created a follow-up to the popular White Paper we posted some months back entitled “Napoleon… Strategy the works”. So, we decided to examine the great General’s advice once again and to apply it to our current market conditions. What follows are a group of pithy Napoleon maxims and a short dissertation on how to apply that learning to your “growing market share” strategies.
If Napoleon was a marketer
“If the art of war were nothing but the art of avoiding risks, glory would become the prey of mediocre minds.”
This is how we should measure our mettle. Action — all action — carries with it the element of risk. It is how opportunistically we embrace that risk and turn it to our advantage that glory and success can be achieved. At Stealing Share®, we have always counseled our clients that the time to make your strategic move is at the very moment that your competition (and in fact — category) are at their most defensive.
In auto racing, this translates to passing the field at the turns… precisely when the competition hesitates and hits the breaks. Is there risk here? You bet there is, but it is where the winner of the race is decided. When accelerating at the turns, the winner has not only taken advantage of his own initiative but has used the competitor’s lack of initiative to his advantage and has harnessed that inaction towards achieving his own goals. Remember, when you sense a defensive and conservative lull settling over the category — grab the initiative! No better time exists for inviting the considerable might and expertise of Stealing Share® into your business.
“Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide.”
Leadership and initiative are the two hallmarks of winning brands. Remember Napoleon’s admonition in our earlier referenced article that — “Strategy is the art of making use of time and space. I am less concerned about the later than the former. Space we can recover, lost time never.” It turns out that, the ability to take advantage of time is closely tied to leadership’s ability to decide a course of action and to take it.
Napoleon went on to say that “In war, the general alone can judge of certain arrangements. It depends on him alone to conquer difficulties by his own superior talents and resolution.” All too often, we get complacent and too comfortable with our own processes. We begin to believe our own corporate fables — legends that reinforce what it is that we wish to hear rather than what the prospect (rather than the customer) believes to be true. Inspired leadership always sees through this haze of deception and views the space with clarity and dispassion. Winning brands are willing to change and adapt to the opportunities that presents itself and winning leadership makes the tough and valuable decisions (see Case Study on Hurrahs).
“Generals who save troops for the next day are always beaten.”
Once the decision has been made to take the battle for market share to the door of the competitor — hold nothing back. Usually, we think of this as meaning “SPEND MORE MONEY.” That is not what we have in mind at Stealing Share®, although a substantial marketing war chest is always helpful.
To our thinking, it means making sure that everything has been honed to battle hardness, that management is all on board, that processes and purposes have been aligned to win, and that business practices have been refined to reflect the best practices available. When your company makes the decision to steal market share from the competition, it is important to remember that this is a strategic decision and not simply a tactic “cooked up by marketing.”
There are many reasons for market leadership and the reason that you trail the market (in market share) is not simply a marketing problem. It has its causes deeply rooted in the corporate culture and operations as well. Change for a singular purpose should not to be avoided — it is to be embraced. When Stealing Share® is hired to help companies grow market share, our charter includes more than just marketing and sales. We find it our duty to identify and remove ALL of the barriers to success. These often include operational issues, personality problems, and a host of poor business practices.
“The people to fear are not those who disagree with you, but those who disagree with you and are too cowardly to let you know.”
We are always surprised by how many times our discovery of fundamental road blocks to a brand’s success are received by our client’s with a nod of common recognition. Clearing out all the dysfunction and girding your loins to win market share requires that everyone is encouraged to speak plainly and truthfully.
A bad business practice or a vindictive executive can spell disaster for a brand that wants to win. Encourage the discourse of truth when seeking the path to success. If the Emperor is indeed naked, someone should acknowledge it because, if the truth were told, everyone already knows it.
“Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”
When you are ready to unleash the potential of your brand and unveil the juggernaut that will propel your brand to increases in market share and unparalleled growth, do so in a concerted launch. Plan the emergence with great care and allow your competitors to amble along doing what they have always done.
When Stealing Share creates a strategic plan to grow market share, your new strategy, position, operations, and brand meaning will significantly alter the playing field and change the rules to your advantage. When you allow that sea change of opportunity to leak out of the bag in dribs and drabs, you do indeed “interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”
Don’t make the same mistake he does — make sure your strategy to steal market share is both different and better than the competition’s plans. Let the others follow the market leader towards increasing the leader’s dominance. Dare to be different and always remember —“If the art of war were nothing but the art of avoiding risks, glory would become the prey of mediocre minds.”