If my stated intent is to one day open a bar, and use the sorts of marketing techniques that I discuss in this blog to make it a success, then am I foolish to publicly state my strategies and tactics? What is to stop the other drinking establishments in my future marketplace from copying me and rendering my competitive advantage moot?
I think I’ll be OK for two reasons:
1. Essence. The techniques and practices one uses to market one’s business are not in and of themselves competitive advantages, because they can be easily copied and transferred. Marketing is inherently outsource-able. It is not part of the essence of a business – what makes that business unique.
There are a couple of ladies we know through my 7-year old daughter’s circle of friends who sell home-made soup and baking every Friday. Their sole (to my knowledge) form of marketing is a weekly email to their acquaintances and past customers. It’s technically spam, but no-one on the recipient list seems to mind. So there’s obviously nothing special or unique about their marketing – they’re using a method proven my a million Viagra resellers. What makes them special and successful are their product and their customers, and the match they’ve made between the two. Their clientele are busy parents who don’t have the time (or perhaps ability) to make the soups, cookies, breads and other goodies every week that these women do. And if the customers did have the time, they would make exactly this sort of quality, healthy, basic fare for their families. And because the customers are all already acquainted with the chefs, there is an immediate trust factor. That recipe (get it?) can’t be duplicated. Could better marketing make them more successful? Sure, if they wanted that, but no competitor is going to steal any of their customers with marketing alone.
2. Audience. When I open my bar someday, I want it to be for someone. I’m not sure whom yet, but there will be a definite, and finite, group of people who are very comfortable there. Others will be welcome, of course, but they will be visitors, not permanent residents. And my core customers will go other places, too – it will not be a monogamous relationship. But the point is that any marketing I do will appeal to those people only. So even if my competitors copy my brilliant marketing strategies perfectly, it won’t matter. Their message won’t appeal to my customers (or “zebras” – more about this in a future post), just as my message won’t appeal to theirs.