When I was at American Airlines, we had to match the public pricing and public tier status benefits. For example, being AAdvantage Gold was exactly the same as being gold on Delta, Continental, and United.
Same 25,000 miles to earn status, same burn tables to redeem miles, and same restrictions. In a competitive market, we had to keep matching.
I came up with a 5,000 mile first time booking bonus for buying online, which all the other airlines immediately copied.
So the competitive differentiation I worked so hard to implement quickly dissipated. I was disappointed.
Copycats are weak, and imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Ever been copied and said that to yourself?
But then I realized that if we made benefits contingent upon data nobody else had or based on our relationship, we created lock in. By using email and direct mail to ask for preferences, we could send special offers that nobody could match.
For example, if you were at 49 segments on Christmas Day, we would often just give you Platinum, so you wouldn’t have to fly on Dec. 31.
Or if we mistreated you somehow, instead of giving you more miles, we’d give you tickets to the opera, if we knew you had a ton of miles already, but likes the opera.
Okay, so here’s why trying to steal your competitor’s traffic will backfire:
- You might as well steal their underwear.
It might not fit you and you have different preferences.
- You’re also assuming that what’s good for them is also good for you.
But you’re not a lemming, nor should you assume their marketing techniques are “better”.
If they went out and bought a ton of junk traffic, should you, too?
- You’re admitting you’re exactly the same.
Red ocean, blue ocean, my friends — competition is for losers.
- Focus on what makes you unique, even if you think you’re in a commodity business.
Even Dr. Rich live streams his surgeries on Google Glass. Viva la difference!
- Their content marketing and brand positioning is different.
McDonald’s tried to market a $5 footlong to compete with Subway and you saw what happened.
- It’s no fun to dig through the garbage.
We’re as guilty as the rest in teaching folks how to spy and do competitive analysis.
- They probably don’t have much traffic anyway.
If they’re good, most of their traffic is on brand terms, type-ins, and email.
Good luck trying to jam your message in the middle of their sequencing.
If your competitor is a sophisticated direct marketer, you’d have to deconstruct their targeting, messaging sequences, and systems.
And even if you managed to copy these assets, you’d still need to have staff capable of operating that machine.
So for example, if they have a simple 3 step funnel with a lead magnet, $7 tripwire, and premium upsell, you’d have to mirror this.
This works for any other business — local service businesses, online marketing, consumer packaged goods, B2B, nonprofits, whatever.
Every time your competitors automatically nurture their customers by collecting information and personalizing the journey, they throw up another barrier to you being able to copy them.
If you’re going to build out conversion funnels, might as well do it on your data. Less effort to do it right than constantly be looking around, afraid that others are better.
They’re probably looking at you, too. Have you seen companies copy each other and both go down in flames?
Focus on your customer, not a perceived competitor. If think you have a clear competitor, then you’re either not fully understanding content marketing (your why) or you’re in a highly regulated industry.
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