Winning Marketplace Wars



Winning marketplace wars relies upon taking new products and new services from a concept or idea to a successful commercial launch. In this webpage, I explain:

  • Who Wins?
  • Who Loses?
  • Why?

Warning: There is a considerable amount of information here concerning the ways and means of encouraging the development and marketplace launch of new products and new services. I understand how important this information is to you when making up your mind as to who can best help you with the expansion of your business. Consequently, as the guide covers a lot of ground, expect a long read.

Thought provokers for a provocative subject

It’s all about new ideas. Here’s some thought provokers for you as we get into this interesting topic: Are you good at finding new ideas for products and services? Have you had success in developing a succession of new products or services and making them winners in the marketplace? Have you had competitors rip you off with cheap copycats of your masthead products and services?

New idea creation. Do you follow a strict product design and development program so that you can keep taking new products and services to market to maintain your profitability levels? Do you regularly consult with your customers and clients to upgrade your products and services to reflect customer suggestions and practical innovations? Do you regularly consult with your customers and clients to discover new products and services that will satisfy their evolving needs and wants? Are you good at winning marketplace wars?

New idea protocols. Have you given much thought to the fact that to protect your marketplace niche, the most critical event you have to continually face for long-term success is to consistently bring new products and services to market? What is your view on the premise that winning in the marketplace is everything and nothing else in business matters very much? I personally agree with that premise and suggest that the success that your company enjoys rests on that premise.

Business Realities: why history is important

Keeping creative is hard work. Business history has thousands of examples of companies who either disappeared or suffered a crushing reduction in size, influence and profitability simply because they failed to innovate or failed to keep their portfolio of products and services competitive and reflective of their customers’ changing needs and requirements. There is only one reason why these companies were mortally wounded. They were simply outdone; trounced by more innovative, more aggressive and more competitive companies.

Keeping creative relies on new ideas. One of my roles is to help you to defend yourself against more innovative, more aggressive and more competitive companies. That’s if you need such help, of course. However, giving such help where necessary is part of my job profile. In the process of taking new products and services from idea to launch, I can help you in two ways. Firstly, I can help you to put in place a system to get a continuous supply of new ideas that can provide a base for a portfolio of new products or services that you can develop for sale. Secondly, I can help you implement a new product or new service design and development program that will help you to take your ideas from just being an idea to a successful marketplace launch.

History says that you must get a bit of the mongrel in you. Respect history.

It’s a war out there. Of course, to get a continuous supply of new ideas and implement a new product or new service design and development program, you may have to become just as innovative, aggressive and competitive as the predator companies eyeing off your customers, if not a little bit more so. That may not be your nature but hey! you have to protect your patch of turf; you have to protect your shareholders, your employees, your customers and your suppliers. They are depending on you for that protection.

Protect yourself. In Australian vernacular, I may have to encourage you to ‘get a bit of the mongrel in you!’ ‘Graham, how do you go about doing that?’ I hear you ask. Well, it’s a challenge because your competitors out there in the marketplace are incredibly ruthless, and they covet your customers. So stick with me and read on to discover what’s involved in protecting your turf against the predators.

A regular supply of new products and services is crucial to your company’s long-term survival

Success requires creativity. This is a fascinating topic that faces all businesses that have to involve themselves from time to time in designing, developing, manufacturing and marketing new products and new services; and really, isn’t that every business! Success with new products (and I include substantial innovations and improvements to your existing products here) is crucial to your company’s long-term survival.

The way to go. I know you understand about product life cycles and how products are classified by business analysts as cash cows, stars, dogs and sleepers and why you need to periodically replace them as their life cycle ends. However, that is not the focus of our discussion today. No, the focus of our discussion today is much more important. It is much more important because it affects the very future of your company. Put succinctly, the future of your company rests on how well you can

  • keep supplying your customers, both existing and potential, with new products and services that will clearly satisfy their evolving needs and wants, and
  • keep supplying your existing customers with innovations to your existing products and services that will actively encourage your customers to continually upgrade to enjoy the market advantages (and therefore, increased profitability) that your innovations will give to your customers.

Business as war

Business as war? Have you noticed the increasing trend over the past two or three decades to compare business with war? You only have to look at the titles of books for sale in your local bookshop to realise this trend. Here’s just a few to illustrate my point:

If business is war, there are consequences. Let’s extend this ‘business-as-war’ philosophy to our discussion topic. This business philosophy means that you are in combat with all your competitors. No surprise in that statement, but we need to take the concept into a little more detail. If business is war, then that simply reflects a practical reality that, as in war, there will be casualties; collateral damage is the common euphemism used. That means that some businesses will be defeated. They will fail. My role is to prevent that happening to you, but we will talk more about that later.

Business failure is normal. Of course, it is a natural phenomenon that many businesses everywhere get into trouble or distress for various reasons and fail. That is a quite normal situation. The reasons that businesses get into trouble include bad management, bad marketing or bad products. It is this latter point that is the focus of concern here. But whatever the reason, the reality is that business failure is everywhere around us. This business failure is reflected in the business failure statistics issued periodically by government agencies. Business failure therefore is both endemic and rife.

In a free economy, there is a right to fail. This is as it should be in a free economy in a democratically governed country. One of the fundamental rights of a free economy is the right to fail. Think about that for a moment. After all, is it not the purpose of business competition and competitive business strategy to eliminate or at least substantially reduce competition so that customers and clients will only turn to your products and/or services to satisfy their wants and needs? Doesn’t business competition and competitive business strategy mean that some businesses will fail to ensure the success of others? Isn’t this the natural manifestation of the business-as-war’ syndrome?

To fight a war, you need a structured army; not a rag-tag band of guerrillas

Returning to our review of the concept that business is war, it means that you and your competitors must each maintain a standing army. Your army will consist of four groups:

Operations. The first group is your front line strike troops who spearhead your army’s attack into the war game’s battle zones. These are your advertising, promotional and sales people and to be successful, you must train them very well and give them sufficient resources (financial and material) to undertake their tasks and responsibilities. This group must include you intelligence gatherers, those important operatives who keep their ears to the ground to unearth important tactical information about the reactions from competitors and the support given by loyal customers. The raw data and information they feed back to your General Staff analysts can be crucial to success.

Weapons development. The second group is your very important research and development team of engineers, designers and artisans who work assiduously to develop the superior weapons that are so necessary if you are to win the war. The weapons this team will produce of course are your new products and services. These troops have a less visible persona in the overall scheme of things, but they generally have a prestigious reputation. Their importance lies in the fact that their efforts are always directly at the heart of every marketplace victory in business war games. They also must be given sufficient resources (financial and material) to undertake their tasks and responsibilities.

Support. The third group is your ordnance corps. This is the team that provides all the essential support services and materials required to keep an active army on the move. This team includes your paymaster, your accounting and administrative staff and your production staff. Importantly, the ordnance team includes your lawyers. These are the people who deal with the technical rules of war, if a competitor or a regulator cries foul over something your front line troops have done.

Command. The fourth group is your General Staff, your field generals otherwise known as your senior management team. Your General Staff Officers’ plan and chart the overall direction of the war game effort and, within the scope or constraints of the new weapons, attempt to define and implement a winning war strategy. General Staff Officers love to speak in terms of ‘attacking strategic markets’, ‘executing strategic thrusts’ and achieving ‘tactical marketing objectives’.

Marketplace intelligence. They are therefore quite comfortable directing front line troops to ‘coordinate strategic market alignments’ (whatever those terms mean). To do this, the General Staff Officers have to rely on your market intelligence analysts (your counterintelligence officers who are supposed to keep tabs, not to mention secret files with bright red covers, on your competition). Your market intelligence analysts therefore provide the General Staff Officers with useful facts about both

  • the marketplace environment (the battle zone where the conflict takes place); and
  • the status, capability and anticipated counter-attacks expected from competitors.

You win some, you lose some

Implementation strategy 1.  Unfortunately, the combination of history and experience confirms that the large number of business failures resulting from defeat on the marketplace battlefield rests upon the fact that a company’s new products and services could not match the firepower of competitors’ products and services. This simply illustrates the point that many, perhaps most, business generals don’t really understand the concept of new product and new service implementation strategy very well.

Implementation strategy 2. As is usually the case where battle zone campaigns are ill defined, based on wrong premises or simply do not match the competition, the fact that the front line strike troops suffer business defeat and sometimes fatal wounding is the obvious consequence of the generals’ failure to provide winning strategies and tactics.The clear lesson from this is that it may be one thing to have an army that can fight a business war, but it is much more important that your army has superior weapons with which to fight that war.

Weapon superiority. And what are the superior weapons that your army must have to defeat your competitors? The answer is in the heading to this webpage. The answer is competitive new products and services that your customers cannot resist; products and services that provide the competitive edge in winning marketplace wars. In business war games therefore, every combatant company, yours included, must maintain a quest for weapon superiority. The achievement of weapon superiority occurs where your new products and new services can show a sustainable competitive advantage over those of your competitors.

New products & services have two roles

New products & services have a dual role. They are both the weapons of choice and the weapons of necessity to win business war games. Across the world, there are literally thousands and thousands of new products and services developed and launched every year with the objective of successfully invading and occupying markets and delivering that knockout punch to competitors. Sadly, the reality is that most new products and services fail as weapons to win business wars.  Of course, a proportion of this lack of success lies with the senior management Generals’ simple lack of general management ability and war games skills across a number of business disciplines. But that is another story.

Taking new products from idea to launch: organisation, management and control

For long-term success, protect your niche. Let’s now turn to the organisation, management and control necessary to take new products from idea to launch. You should never underestimate the importance of this. The reality of business today is that whether you are a transnational corporation or a small business enterprise protecting your niche in a regional market, new product wars are now the most critical and significant events you will have to face for long-term success. I say that because winning these wars is everything: it is crucial to your long-term success, your prosperity and in many circumstances, your survival.

Respect business history. Losing the war or failing to take an active role in the war, can be fatal. Business history has thousands of examples of companies who either disappeared or suffered a substantial reduction in size, influence and profitability because they failed to innovate. These companies, mortally wounded because they failed to keep their portfolio of products competitive and reflective of their customers’ changing needs and requirements, were simply outdone by more innovative competitor companies.

The elements of success

Match it with competitors. I hear you asking, what are the ingredients for developing the superior weapons needed for success in fighting the new product wars? The answer is not complicated; in short, to match it with competitors in the new product wars, you must draw together three vital elements for success:

  • your effective, efficient and professional employment of evolving technologies,
  • your ability to obtain factual marketplace intelligence and use it effectively to enhance your marketplace activities, and
  • your capacity, capability and competence to take advantage of rapid mobility.

Invest in advanced technologies. Effective use of new technologies is the key element here that will permit you to produce superior weaponry. Companies who have invested in advanced technologies can attest to this as they reap their financial rewards. Marketplace intelligence (viz., market information, competitor information, etc) permits you to effectively deploy your weapons and resources for greatest advantage, and this can often be the difference between winning and losing. Rapid mobility (viz., speed of engagement; speed of reaction), the last but by no means least of the three key elements, permits you to seize windows of opportunity that arise unexpectedly or unpredictably. It can also enable you to catch an enemy competitor off guard for commercial advantage.

Let us not forget what this is all about: In winning at new products, the goal is victory. General Omar Bradley of the United States’ Army once made a quotable quote that is pertinent here:

In war, there is no second prize for the runner-up.

This competitive spirit and attitude is equally prevalent in professional sport. Vince Lombardi, the famous coach of the renowned Green Bay Packers Grid-Iron (American football) team is often quoted for this statement:

Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing!

It’s in your own best interests to heed these messages! Victory of course relies upon a steady stream of profitable and successful new products.

The authority of speed 

The key to success. On this new product battlefield, a company’s ability to design, organise and execute swift, well-planned attacks is increasingly the key to success. Speed therefore is the winning tactic in today’s battlefields. What does this mean in practice, you may ask? It means this: your key to success is your ability to accelerate your development of new products without overlooking or ignoring mandatory elements in your new product development process, thus permitting you to launch into market ahead of your competition and within your identified window of opportunity.

Speed. Speed therefore is everything in the modern-day business wars. In the modern-day business wars, speed provides three crucial imperatives to your success:

  • competitive advantage: your control of the speed of development of new products gives you competitive advantage. In practical terms, speed gives you the ability to respond empathetically and relatively quickly to customers’ changing needs and requirements, the ability to respond effectively to the constant changes in a very competitive marketplace environment, and the means to outmaneuver competitors with the periodic launch of new products.
  • fewer shocks and blows: speed has a number of advantages. Your capacity to quickly develop and launch a new product means that the product as originally conceived is more likely to meet market requirements. Putting that concept from the opposite perspective, the shorter the timeframe from idea to launch the less the odds that market conditions will noticeably change and cause difficulties with customer acceptance of your new product.
  • higher profitability: the faster that you launch your new product, the faster the revenue from the sales of the product will be received; and the revenues over the life of the product will be higher, given that you launch in an appropriate window of opportunity. There is an accountant’s caveat here: money has a time value and deferred revenues are worth less than revenues received sooner. So the message is clear – speed is your friend.

A word of warning: speed is a double-edged sword

Be careful. Never give priority to speed at the expense of managing your new product process properly. To do so is akin to shooting yourself in the foot; and will undoubtedly result in a loss of cash flow, a loss of profits and a loss of reputation. On the other hand, it is clear that the effective development of new products from idea to launch provides the winning formula that determines corporate success and consequently higher profitability.

By now you are probably wondering how you can profitably tap into the new product development process. I can help you there.

Blueprint for a new product and service development process

Develop a process. Firstly, we must together evaluate how you presently go about getting and choosing good ideas for new products, how you actually go about developing new products and how you launch the new products. Once we do that, I can work with you to set up a new product development process that will provide you with a checklist of essential matters that you will have to address. As you proceed down this checklist developing a new product, I will recommend that at certain points in the process, you will have to make Go/Kill decisions about the project.

Develop go/kill review strategies. A Go/Kill decision means that at that particular stage in the new product development process, you will aggregate all the available information about the new product and its marketability. You will then have the responsibility of assessing this information and making a decision on objective grounds as to whether the new product development proceeds as planned, proceeds with modifications or is killed off for various reasons.

Importance of go/kill strategies 1. These Go/Kill decision points are central to the new product development process. They serve several functions: they are effective quality control checkpoints because they provide the quality control mechanism in the new product development process. No project can proceed to the next stage without completing certain essential tasks and achieving certain deliverables essential to the process. Go/Kill decision points therefore help chart the path forward, determining the tasks and deliverables for the next stage of the new product process. Additionally, Go/Kill decision points provide an opportunity to weed out bad projects or under-performing projects. This then permits the company to focus resources on the more profitable projects.

Importance of go/kill strategies 2. As an aside, kill reasons can include, inter alia, such reasons as the product appears to be potentially unprofitable, the product development is consuming company resources at an unacceptable level, the project cannot be completed within the allocated time or budget requirements, the company has encountered technological or engineering difficulties that cannot easily be resolved, etc.

Other considerations necessary to the new product and service development process

Be clear about your marketplace focus. What I have done above is to define the commercial objectives and rationale for new product development activities. To effectively follow a new product process, you have to first choose the market targets on which to focus. You must then decide the entry strategies. These are the broad constituent elements for your war plan; your new product strategy. Next, you must determine your battle plan; your battle plan is the systematic sequence of actions necessary to take products from being mere ideas to moneymaking successes.

No guarantees. No guarantees are given of course that if you follow a practical new product process that you will be successful with a new product. Reality demonstrates that even the best laid plans can go awry; history demonstrates that war plans and battle plans can be beset by unforeseen events, poor execution and plain bad luck. Innovation in new product development and marketing is a future-oriented, uncertain and high-risk endeavor. Having no plan or no process at all however, is a recipe for disaster. New product development processes are simply too important to be left to chance.

Action time. If you would like to confidentially discuss how I could work with you to develop and implement a new product process to take products from idea to market launch, or if you simply want some more information about this topic, please call me on (+61) 0404 631 230. I would be delighted to receive a call from you.

Please Note This Important Personal Limitation. As a sole-practitioner, I simply cannot always accept every assignment I am offered. There are unfortunately not enough hours in each day to accept them all. So if you think I can help, please call me now. I operate on the ‘first up, best dressed’ principle.

Yours sincerely,

Graham  Segal

Chiron! the business doctor.™ ... relieves business pain!™ 


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