Principles of Defensive Warfare

Jun 11th, 2003 by Tony in Marketing Warfare

There are three basic principles of defensive marketing warfare. Each is easy to learn but difficult to put into practice.

1: Only the market leader should consider playing defence.

We’ve never met a company that didn’t consider itself a leader. But most companies base their leadership positions more on creative definitions than on market realities. Companies don’t create leaders – customers do. It’s who the customer perceives as the leader that defines a true category leader.

2: The best defensive strategy is the courage to attack yourself.

Because of its leadership position, the defender owns a strong point in the mind of the prospect. The best way to improve your position is by constantly attacking it. You strengthen your position by introducing new products or services that obsolete your existing one. Competition continually struggles trying to catch up. A moving target is harder to hit than a stationary one. Attacking yourself may sacrifice short-term profits, but it protects market share, the ultimate weapon in any marketing battle.

3: Strong competitive moves should always be blocked.

Most companies have only one chance to win, but leaders have two. If a leader misses an opportunity to attack itself, the company can often recover by copying the competitive move. But the leader must move rapidly before the attacker gets established. Many leaders refuse to block because their egos get in the way. Even worse, they knock the competitor’s development until it’s too late to save the situation. Blocking works well for a leader because of the nature of the battleground. Remember, the war takes place in the mind of the prospect., It takes time for an attacker to make an impression in the mind. Usually, there’s time enough for the leader to cover.

— Al Ries and Jack Trout, Marketing Warfare, Chapter 7

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