Your – idea, product, campaign, slogan – has just launched. Congratulations. Now, get ready for the barrage.
If you have done the due diligence for making this launch a success, then you will have your hands full with critics and copycats who want to tear you down and wish to diminish your accomplishment.
Amidst this flurry, refuge can be found in a well thought out competitive response plan.
A group you will have to address up front is the Differentiators. Comprised of your toughest competitors, they have already launched, or are planning to launch, items that will be in direct competition with your new product or service. Not only that, but they will go about things in a completely contrarian fashion.
If your product is organic, theirs will be sustainably farmed. If you left out a feature, they’ll be sure to include it. Any pivotal decision you make, the Differentiators will tend to oppose. This group will strive to capitalize on what they believe are your biggest weaknesses.
So, you must be prepared. Have strong justification for the choices you made and why those decisions are favorable to the alternatives your competitors are now touting. Decide ahead of time if you are going to be defensive or preemptive in addressing these differences.
If you’re the market leader, you can parry these attacks as they emerge with as little as a press release and some effective social media outreach. However, if you represent the underdog, you should be on the offensive early and often. Look at what Verizon’s Droid did before launching against Apple’s iPhone.
You must also consider the Copycats that are sure to emerge in the months following your launch. Unlike the previous group, these guys love your launch item; so much so that they will replicate everything you did down to almost the last detail.
These imitators will try to undercut you by offering a lower price, thanks to their overseas outsourcing. Or, they’ll promise the same service as you, but in half the turnaround time, regardless of the feasibility. Don’t fret.
Again, you have to remind your consumers that you do things for a reason and that your reason is quality…or any other of a number of valuable brand attributes that you stand for. Price is only 1 factor in the value equation and consumers will reward brands that deliver non-monetary benefits if they are met with information and experiences that demonstrate your product has a superior ‘what you get’ vs. ‘what you pay for’ ratio.
Set the trajectory
Stand behind your brand and the actions you took to bring it to market. At the end of the day, your commitment to that process will bear you out. But first, you must endure the deluge of initial challenges to maintain your launch’s momentum and ensure a successful trajectory for your product or service over the remainder of its lifecycle.
Remind people you do things for a reason and that reason is quality… it’ll be hard to turn a profit if price is the only determinant in consumers’ decisions. Frequently dropping prices to compete with inferior, cheaper goods amounts to fighting a war of attrition and puts you in the disadvantaged ‘passenger seat’ of your own launch.
For every great idea, product, campaign and slogan in the world, there are eventually at least a handful of infringing (and often cheap) imitations. This holds true across category lines, for enterprises big and small and yes, it even applies to your unique, incomparable, gem of an idea.
And, when it’s your dollars that are on the line, flattery is the last thing on your mind. Make sure you have the answers to these questions:
You are different for a reason, not for the sake of being different. Show it.
- First mover vs. middle of the pack: how will the timing of your launch affect the competitive landscape and response?
- How can you communicate your differences while showing how they will benefit your consumers?
- What weaknesses or alleged weaknesses are your competitors likely to point out?
Getting the Word Out
- Do you have defenses for anticipated attacks? Will you take an offensive stance and address those concerns before they are pointed out by someone else?
- Are your differentiating factors best served with communications that are Informational or emotional?
- Will you engage with competitors directly? What about consumers who detract from your brand?
- Will public controversy help or hurt you? Would initial interest and buzz be worth the potential harm to your brand?
- Should you allocate a portion of your marketing budget to the competitive backlash?
Learn from the (recent) past: Iphone vs. droid
- If you’re different than majority, you will get questions about this. Prepare.
- Why do you think you’re better than the competition? Have this ace up your sleeve from the beginning.
- Anticipate weaknesses, have answers.
- Leverage public relations and earned media to get the word out.