Avoid Strengths, Attack Weaknesses

One of the main concepts of strategy is to avoid strengths, and attack weakness. In addition, it is critical to know yourself and your competitor. As Sun Tzu has said:

If you know the enemy and you know yourself, your victory will not stand in doubt; if you know Heaven and you know Earth, you may make your victory complete.
Japans Motorcycle Wars.jpg

If you are a small or weak company wanting to gain market share there are several ways to combat stronger opponents. Firstly, you can develop a strongly differentiated product that provides a new, key value for customers. Secondly, you can increase the interactions between your sales force and customers to drive-home benefits of working with your team. This takes time and a strong commitment from the entire organization. Another tactic is to increase marketing communications to gain a stronger voice. Teams can also use deception to confuse opponents and then focus on areas where you can gain share (areas of competitor’s weaknesses). Slowly take one targeted region at a time and before the competitor knows what happens, you have gained a large swath of territory. Think of how Wal-Mart gained massive share as it slowly overtook small towns (as the larger chains ignored what was happening), and then before Sears, K-Mart, and other major retailers knew what was going on, they dominated larger towns and cities.

In addition, make sure you don’t do a direct attack on a much stronger competitor. A good example is the Honda and Yamaha motorcycle war in the early 1980s. Yamaha decided to attack Honda, and announced it publicly - stupid. Honda said bring it on! Honda’s CEO stated, “Yamaha wo tsubusu!” Which translates to “We will crush, squash, butcher, slaughter ,etc. Yamaha!” Not good if you are much smaller.

So what happened? Honda introduced or replaced 113 models in about 18 months. Yamaha only managed about 37 product line changes. Honda was able to dominate with ongoing testing in the marketplace with new styling and technology at a much faster pace. Yamaha ended up with massive amounts of unsold inventory, which was basically unsellable. The Yamaha CEO apologized publicly as the “war” almost destroyed both companies. Don’t attack a superior opponent head-on! Be creative, innovative, and outmaneuver the larger opponent to fast-changing environments.