Welcome to Competing.com

Our Typical Reader

Our Typical Reader

This is a site about competing better. You could have guessed by the URL. The contributors will focus on examples of successful competing and unsuccessful competing.

Underlying competing is strategy. No one can compete better without strategy because strategy is what enables anyone to win. And luck. But the site about luck is www.lasvegas.com. We have little to say about that.

The brave reader who reached this page is inundated with data and news everywhere else. What we think we can do is give insight. Insight is a funny concept since everyone uses this word to mean “what I say is important and what others say is less so.” Indeed, we believe that too but we won’t say it like that.

Instead, here is our insight on insight: it is about perspective. It is based on the “facts,” but facts alone are never insight because data have no perspective. Only the interpreter can have a perspective.

We do not filter by whether the perspective is right or wrong (how would we judge anyway?). We only care that it is a perspective, and it is thoughtful, interesting, and doesn’t contradict itself. The reader can then do with it whatever the reader wants to do with it. Once in a blue moon we may be able to make a reader in Duluth, Minnesota sit up and say: “Hmmm… I didn’t think about it that way before.”

We live, or at least we write, for John in Duluth. John, thanks for your comment. And if you like this site, please tell your buddy Paul and your neighbor George and your uncle Ringo…

Contact us  or if you would like to write for us click here.

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Evidence of Strategy Everywhere: “The New Entrepreneurial Spirit: Bypass”

You might think I’m announcing that today there is strategy in the United States. Such a discovery would indeed be welcome but it’s not what I mean. I mean that you can see strategy in almost every newspaper article. All you need is to want to see it!
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In Disruptive Innovation versus Old-Fashioned Strategy I admired the smart strategy of Elio Motors in bypassing some regulatory costs. It seems that type of entrepreneurial thinking is becoming a major theme of entrepreneurial strategies.

USA Today reported on the success of Uber and Lyft, startups that use smartphone apps to connect passengers with private drivers. In just four years Uber expanded to serve 128 cities in 37 countries; Lyft serves 67 cities. The companies’ strategies depend directly on skirting government regulations: they claim not to be taxis and therefore not subject to taxi regulations.

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The Extraordinary Industry of Literary Agents

Competition among writers has been reviewed on this site in a wonderful piece by Daniel Quinn. This piece looks at the other side – how literary agents compete and how market forces created an extraordinary market with headquarters in…Brooklyn.
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Beware, males! Let my personal experience serve as a warning for you who aspire to see your names on a best-selling novel.

Barriers to entry into a market can be obvious: a dominant incumbent, the need for economies of scale, etc. Sometimes they’re less obvious, such as political connections with government officials (e.g., see my article on Elon Musk’s Telsa).

But what do you do, and how do you compete, when the barrier is… sex?

No, not that. Gender.

We all know Silicon Valley is friendliest to males, especially white or Asian, especially young. But sometimes the sex barrier sneaks up on you, or at least on me, when least expected. Specifically, in writing and publishing.

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Evidence of Strategy Everywhere: “The Biggest May Not be the Best”

You might think I’m announcing that today there is strategy in the United States. Such a discovery would indeed be welcome but it’s not what I mean. I mean that you can see strategy in almost every newspaper article. All you need is to want to see it!
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Myth: to be number one you need to be the best. USA Today reported on a Consumer Reports survey of fast-food customers. They ranked McDonald’s last in burgers (The Habit Burger Grill, a regional chain, was first), KFC last in chicken (Chick-fil-A was first), and Taco Bell last in burritos (Chipotle was first).

It’s not that Taco Bell placed last in salads or McDonald’s had the worst egg sandwich. The chains were at the bottom with their core products.

Consumer Reports’ project editor explains the ranking as a result of Millennials caring about things other than mere value for money, such as quality and social issues. I wonder if it is because they still live with parents who pay their bills. That seems unlikely in light of analysis that shows most millennials living at home for economic reasons. Perhaps a few slackers go out to restaurants better than the bottom-feeder fast-food giants while their parents pick up their expenses, but most are probably still eating at the McDonald’s of the world while realizing it is not the best, it is the cheapest.

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Celebrity and Strategy

The cult of celebrity is not only present in entertainment, sports, and politics, it’s in business as well. CEOs that get the most attention aren’t necessarily competing better than the rest. In the news doesn’t mean in the know.
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Here’s a true story. A friend of mine, Bruce Hamilton, won the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) championship some years ago. He laments that his skill is in bowling and not in golf. His prize was nice but the Professional Golf Association (PGA) championship paid seven times as much in that year. Would we say the PGA champ was seven times as skillful as my friend?

In 2013, the PGA champ was paid 28.9 times as much as the PBA champ, up from seven times. Would we say that skill at golfing is growing faster than skill at bowling?

How many top golfers can you name? How many top bowlers? (I can name one.)

We have, in business, a cult of celebrity rather than a cult of strategy. Try this: who’s the CEO of Facebook and who’s the CEO of DuPont?

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Do Marketers Market?

When it comes to competing, marketers are missing the mark. A recent study reveals that most marketing professionals focus on customers over their competitors. 
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I have never thought of myself as a Luddite. I own a smartphone and a scanner, and I use them as needed (i.e., less often than every waking minute). Progress, science, and rigorous analysis are my guiding lights.

I wouldn’t bother you with such personal reflections if I hadn’t stumbled on an article in a prestigious academic marketing journal. The article made me feel, for the first time, a total Luddite, unable to understand progress and the contribution of science to humanity.

The article, “From academic research to marketing practice: Exploring the marketing science value chain” by John H. Roberts, Ujwal Kayande, and Stefan Stremersch, was published in the June 2014 issue of the International Journal of Research in Marketing. It is one of the most sophisticated, elaborate, careful studies I’ve seen in years. Its admirable objective was to test this question empirically: Does marketing-science research affect marketing practice?

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The Best Ad Ever

When it comes to corporate advertising, being unique creates a competitive advantage. See how these companies decided to be unique, resulting in “the best ad ever.”

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According to Michael Porter, competing effectively means providing some customers with unique value, where “unique” means not offered by competitors and “value” means of worth to some customers. To do that, a company must design its set of activities in a unique way as well, or it will be imitated quickly and its uniqueness will evaporate.

Part of the activity chain, and therefore part of competing, is a company’s message delivered via its advertising. Many advertising agencies just spit out commoditized ads. (Where’s their unique value?) Once a year, in honor of the Super Bowl delirium, they try to be funny. The goal isn’t unique and the formula isn’t unique. Film a cute dog or a cute toddler or a cute dog with a cute toddler, and you have it. The cuteness and humor needn’t have anything to do with the other activities of, say, Budweiser or Pepsi. Or with sales, as Darth Vader can testify against VW. So, the activity chain is not internally very consistent.

They can all learn from Las Vegas and Cirque du Soleil.

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