June 2017

Launch to Market – Assessment

Part 2 of a 5 part monthly series on business: market entry routes for a new entrant to market in a competitive field.

It is always difficult to deal with a vicious competitor, every good business will have experienced it at some stage in their trading … nobody copies a bad business model! I make sure that I promote the best and although we are all busy in our day to day business activities, you must always keep an eye on the business landscape. A competitor who can win through a host of barriers can climb to the top against all odds without breaking their competitor but letting them fail independently or adapt to survive.

I remember when Virgin tried to break into the travel business and there were claims of misconduct by British Airways form Richard Branson and his executive team. I think everyone accepts now that it nearly broke him financially and personally but today almost nobody can remember the issues he faced nor will they care; what they care about is the price and service. However, to Richard Branson, a very successful and wealthy entrepreneur he will tell you that the dirty tricks nearly broke him. That was the eighties and much has changed to prevent such criminal activity blocking new innovative start-ups to market in the new millennium.

An existing competitor will bring their longstanding colleagues up to date and together although they will be running parallel to you often with your own ideas duplicated, your innovation will help them convert into a modern and sustainable business along the way. There is a price to be paid for everyone in that process. I did wonder then why he [Richard Branson] did not deal with it legally and why if such a restricted competitor (BA is government owned) wasn’t challenged through the variety of options available such as anti-competition law etc. …and then I learned the rules the hard way. I suffered a vicious anti-competitive campaign aimed at me and my family and it has nothing to do with the law, often those in control of administering it are bound also.

The hurdles a new entry to market has to climb through can seem endless and sometimes the stronghold a single market competitor has in the marketplace among long-term friends formed alliances is probably the biggest issue to deal with. However, once you jump through the hoop of financial survival and build a recognised and admired brand, a business operated by vision and creative ideas against one that is not will always outperform competitors. The point is that a new entrant to market will be regarded as a bully if they push too hard at the beginning and punish an existing player and the aim of a competitor is purely that; ensuring there is more than one operator in the sector that is providing an alternative choice for the consumer. It never fails to shock me at the venom and effort a competitor will project towards a new player compared with little or no effort to deliver a service at all. Whilst the new entrant must innovate, build a team, market themselves and generate income from zero to number one in a hostile environment. I have been involved in this scenario in two long-term and very different industry sectors and on each occasion I am shocked at the dirty tricks I witness. Finally we can now do something about that for the future. The law is outdated and the evidence available will be the basis of the initiative for change.

You must continually bring ideas to market and you must monitor every move you make as well as your competitors across the market and save every piece of evidence from screen shots and messages, emails and recordings of illegal and abusive conduct to support a case if the day has to be called. This will grow and grow and is quite revolting to review but many a case is won at the High Court based upon years of abusive collated evidence and so it must be done. Finding a new audience is best achieved by entering untapped markets. Let your competitors steal your new contacts. If your supporters are prepared to fold and cross the room to your competitor, let them go, you don’t want weak support and you don’t want spies in your camp. Keep moving and stay focussed. The difference between success and failure is tenacity and intelligent manoeuvre.

In review, to be a new entrant in a tired business sector you must of course be vibrant, you must bring innovation and you need to promote inclusiveness. To launch, you need two sets of teams, one that is front facing to promote and provide the business strategy and trading, the second as a back office team, collating evidence of the anti-competitive underworld that cartels create to protect their space. This evidence will help to break down and break through. Never try to break and remove the original, let it change and adapt or die off naturally but don’t put its light out or you will be perceived as a bully and damage your chance to attract trade. You must keep all of this undercurrent extremely private as your clients should only hear how great you are doing they are not interested in your troubles, they have their own!