Swarming - Strategy to Keep Your Competitor Off-balance

Ants do it. Bees do it. Wolves do it. Even German U-boats in WWII did it. Swarming. Swarming is a great tactic to overwhelm competitors. The use of small units which simultaneously attack competitors from multiple directions is at the heart of swarming. There has been long history of swarming within various military campaigns.


Swarming has developed as a very effective tactic within war. Maneuver warfare focuses on forces striking small areas with high tempo to keep the competitors off-balance. German tank panzers and Nelson's sea battles were examples of maneuver. Swarming is an excellent tactic exemplified by maneuver strategy’s use of small groups to create confusion and ambiguity. Today we are seeing plans to deploy drones to swarm battlefields and opponent weaknesses.


Swarming for Business

Within business, swarming can be a creative way to confuse and surprise your competition. Swarming consists (typically) of small dispersed interconnected units which benefit from robust communication, high situational awareness, and leveraging intelligence. A critical aspect of swarming is pulsing. The ability to quickly descend on the competitor like a plague of locusts, then quickly disperse, and attack again. The ability to allow "ground troops" to make decisions real-time based on environmental conditions aligns with maneuver elements.


An example of swarming in business, would be to identify a critical sales region that is not on the competitor's radar, where you can potentially gain critical market share. After carefully understanding your competitor's strengths and weaknesses, you devise a plan that incorporates marketing, sales, technical operations and other organizational departments for a synergistic campaign. As you "attack" one region, you quickly move out and then attack another region, which you identified for opportunities. This can be done quickly, efficiently, and economically avoiding large marketing campaigns or costly national sales promotions. Focusing on specific regions will allow continuous learning and the ability to quickly shift tactics to improve overall sales.


Innovation is becoming an increasingly required skill, not just within product development and marketing. Process innovation allows all areas of the business to continually improve and develop differentiation. The ability to create "combined arms" as all key departments work together for a singular outcome will allow improved relations with retailers and you demonstrate powerful local support. In addition, the fast movement keeps competitors off-balance.

Swarming requires careful planning and coordination. In addition, it requires strong and ongoing communication to share intelligence and insights from the market. Start small, experiment, and slowly gain market share. The days of rolling out large national campaigns and embarking on head-to-head frontal battles are long over. Leverage technology, diverse but small teams, and the ability to stretch your dollars.