Don’t Be a Fast Follower. Don’t Be a Follower at All!

“Fast follower” is a term used in marketing circles to refer to a company that moves quickly to do what its competitors are doing, or to do what one specific, extremely innovative competitor is doing. But I’ve never really liked the idea of

following the competition, no matter how quickly it’s done.

When I worked in in-house marketing departments I would hear these kinds of comments often: “The competition is using radio! We should be on the radio!” “The competition has an e-letter! We need an e-letter!” “The competition is using billboards…on social media…on Tiktok…you get the picture.

Such followership is pure folly in my mind and, most importantly, often a waste of resources and the cause of lost opportunities.

The Lost Art of “Positioning”

In my mind, before you can determine whether it is wise to do what the competition is doing, there are three key questions you need the answers to:

1) Who is my target audience(s)?

2) What are my goals?

3) What do I have to offer that’s different, and hopefully better, than what the competition is offering?

Questions 1 and 2 must be asked and answered whenever embarking on any communication activity—I tell this to students in my classes, employees I’ve managed, clients I work with and even friends who are engaging in “personal communications” of various kinds. To ultimately be effective, you have to start with a clear idea of who you’re trying to influence and what you want them to do—and you need to be very specific.

When it comes to marketing activities you also have to clearly convey what makes you better than other alternatives or options (the competition). That’s positioning.

Finding Your “Unique Selling Proposition”

While monitoring what the competition is doing from a marketing standpoint is certainly important, copying them is not. In fact, copying the competition can serve more to strengthen the message of the competition than to further your own unique (let’s hope it’s unique) selling proposition. When I’m marketing something I want it to stand out—I don’t want it to be “just like…”

Just like doesn’t work. It doesn’t differentiate. It doesn’t compel my target audience to take a desired action toward my identified goal. It just doesn’t work.

Connect with your target audience in different ways than your competition is connecting with them. Create messaging for your target audience that is different than your competitors’ messaging. Focus on different benefits than your competition is focusing on.

Positioning What You Have to Offer

The next time you look at an ad your competition ran or hear about a new product they’re introducing or a new event they’re planning and you think: “I need to do that, too,” think again. What you really need to do is:

1) Identify your target audience(s).

2) Identify your goal(s).

3) Determine how what you have to offer is different from your competition.

4) Determine the most impactful opportunities you have to communicate your message(s) to your target audience(s).

5) Develop a plan that will incorporate multiple means of connecting and compelling your audience to do what you’d like them to do.

Do that, and it won’t be long before the competition is copying you—and that can be a very nice place to be.

About Us

Strategic Communications, LLC, works with B2B clients to help them achieve their goals through effective content marketing and management with both internal and external audiences. We work with clients to plan, create and publish high-quality, unique content. Whether on- or offline, or both, we’ll help you achieve desired results.

(Strategic Communications is certified as a Woman-Owned Business Enterprise through the Wisconsin Department of Administration.)

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Recommended Reading:

21st Century Secrets to Effective PR

Managing Remote Staff

Direct Mail in the Digital Age

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Strategic Planning

The Everything Guide to Customer Engagement

Best Practices in Influencer Marketing

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