Thursday, September 22, 2011

How to Compete with Apple

By Craig Ballantyne

In today’s retail world we are being treated to one of the greatest exhibits in market domination since Henry Ford conquered the automotive marketplace. I’m talking about Apple’s control of the tablet wars.

Every day it seems the news is reporting on another company dropping out of the market. Recently, Dell and Hewlett-Packard have killed off some of their tablets, folded their tents, and gotten out of Apple’s way before they lost any more money or pride.

Research In Motion (RIM), the maker of the ubiquitous Blackberry, might soon be going the way of the dinosaur too. Having sold only 200,000 of the expected 500,000 units of their Playbook for the quarter, RIM is being advised to pull the plug on their tablet. Only Samsung appears to be holding their own in the battle against Apple. But even then, almost seven out of every ten tablets sold around the world is an iPad.

Why are all these companies getting beaten? It’s simple.

“Every single vendor in the tablet space made the same mistake. Not a single one of them did anything different than the iPad,” said Maribel Lopez, principal analyst at Lopez Research.

There’s a reason why the book, “Differentiate or Die”, has remained so popular over the years. It’s simply because the message is one you can’t ignore, no matter what business you’re in. As the author, Jack Trout, says, “Consumers today have an endless number of choices among products that are virtually identical. Short of slashing your prices and wrecking your margins, differentiating is the only way to gain market share and win.”

Unfortunately, many businesses default to slashing prices as the only way to stand out in their marketplace. But when asked, “What’s the secret of selling against fierce competition?”, Jeffrey Gitomer, the author of “The Little Black Book of Networking”, said, “Differentiate with value, or die with price.”

If you simply try to be the lowest priced option in your market, eventually your business will die. Someone will always be able to come along and be cheaper than you, cutting out your profit margins and killing your business.

You need to differentiate the products and services you sell based on a unique selling proposition. What can you bring to the marketplace that hasn’t already been done – or at least done well enough?

The problem of differentiation extends to all industries, and a great one to watch is the battle among the big pizza chains. Domino’s gets credit for one of the greatest differentiating marketing strategies in history, for their promise of delivering fresh, hot pizza to your door in 30 minutes or less. However, most differences will only last so long.

Today, Pizza Hut is experiencing tremendous success by offering not just pizza, but pasta. This has allowed America’s biggest pizza company to hold off Domino’s. Incidentally, Domino’s is now trying to differentiate their business by specializing in adding chicken to their menu.

You can never stop being different. You must always be looking for a new way to differentiate yourself from the competition. After all, Apple didn’t just stop with the iPad. They improved the iPad2, and rumor has it the iPad3 is not far away. Surely, they’ll continue their market domination if they keep making their product better and different from all the copycats.

Today’s homework for you is to identify your area of expertise that allows you to be different in your market. This might apply to your online business or simply to your workplace where you’re competing for a promotion with several other candidates. You must identify what makes you different and better. Once you do, make sure everyone knows about it.

One of the first authors who taught me about differentiation was Bob Serling. I bought his $97 manual, “Info Millions” back in 2003 when I was running my fitness information business out of my bedroom – while working full-time as a personal trainer.

I read that manual from cover-to-cover four times that summer, and each time it showed me a new way to make a few thousand dollars. I credit Bob’s manual with helping me build the foundation of the business that allows me to live the American Dream lifestyle today.

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