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Fishing for ideas using IdeaCast

Today’s guest post is more than one read, instead it’s a series of over 100 podcasts from Harvard Business Review’s bi-weekly production called IdeaCast.

Click here to subscribe to HBR’s IdeaCast (Note: This link will take you to iTunes, which hosts the free podcast)

Each episode is about 20 minutes and they are audio-only, well worth syncing to your mp3 player and listening as you mosey about.

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Competing with Bullwinkle

Tender eyes...
Creative Commons License photo credit: FlyNutAA

The other day, one of our dogs chased a huge moose out of the yard.

Who cares, right? Maybe. Read on.

If you haven’t ever seen a moose, they aren’t quite as friendly as Bullwinkle. In fact, they have a reputation for being pretty mean once provoked.

Readers of the Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet series will remember a scene where the moose attacks Brian in a high mountain lake, almost drowning him.

If you remember past posts, you might assume that Blondie, our 85lb+ Golden Retriever/Alaskan Husky mix might be the one who chased the would-be Bullwinkle out of the yard. Even though Blondie can fill the back seat of a Suburban, you’d be wrong if you assumed she was the moose chaser.

It’s an understandable assumption. After all, a full-grown moose typically weighs between 800 and 1300 pounds and stands 6-7 feet high at the shoulder. You’d assume it would take a big noisy dog to scare off something that big and that mean, right?

The trouble with that theory is that Blondie is really of the species doggus fireplacus-snoozus, meaning she’d rather lay in front of the fireplace and snooze.

The dog that chased off the moose? Our Bichon Frise, Gigi (no, I didn’t name her<g>). That isn’t her in the photo above, but the dog in that photo looks just like her.

Gigi weighs all of 8-9 lbs and stands maybe 6″ tall at the shoulder. So I’m looking out the bathroom window into the back 40 and I see this little white wanna-be tasmanian devil yapping her brains out and this moose trotting off while looking over its shoulder looking like it wishes it were in another county.

Here it comes

Yeah, there’s a lesson there. You knew it was coming.

The assumption is that the big competitor can’t be made to blink – or in the case of the moose, can’t be made to take their marbles and go somewhere else.

Many times, that assumption is made because the competitor is “too big to fail”. Bet you’ve heard that a lot lately.

In the case of the moose, that would be my assumption as well. The likely reality is that the moose realized that this little yappy white critter coming after it with fangs bared and a maniacal yap (is that even possible?<g>) not only wasn’t scared of it, but wasn’t going to back off.

Suddenly, whatever brought the moose into the yard simply wasn’t worth it anymore. Trust me, I have those days with Gigi from time to time myself:)

The dirty little secret is that if the moose got close enough to Gigi, she probably would have run for the hills, but coming to that one particular spot just wasn’t attractive enough for the moose to chance it.

The moose doesn’t know what Gigi is capable of, much less willing to do in order to win the battle. Because it really doesn’t need this little corner of Montana in order to survive, it leaves.

Like Gigi, your ability to compete against a large, entrenched competitor is largely up to what’s inside of you.

Do I mean that you can sell more insulin or diabetic socks than Wal-Mart? Probably not.

On the other hand, in your market, you might be able to create a great success selling diabetic supplies to the right market by selling better than they do – simply because of delivery, service, insurance handling, convenience and so on.

Even Wal-Mart has weaknesses – some by design

Ever seen a drive-up window at a Wal-Mart? Ever seen a Wal-Mart delivery vehicle in a neighbor’s driveway?

Even in a market with a large, entrenched competitor, you’ll find things that your competitor is unable or unwilling to do. Things that the customer would be happy to have you do for them as part and parcel of delivering your product or service. There are *some* customers that will gravitate to you because of that.

Others wont care about delivery, drive-up, or whatever you use to differentiate. Let them go. Assuming that everyone is your ideal customer is a great way to bore the market to death (the death being that of your business).

Focus on the clientele who revels in or depends on the differences you offer.

What would your competitor simply hate to find you doing in “their” market? What could they do if they wanted to that would really please their customer – but they wont because of their compliance department, laziness or their business model?

Be the Gigi of your market. Defend your corner of the yard like a maniacal, fluffy little dog that is convinced it cannot lose.

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When I grow up I want to be an old woman

That phrase isn’t only the name of a Michelle Shocked song, it’s the theme of a very good commercial.

Something got me on a meme of talking about marketing to women this week – including on today’s Hotseat Radio show, so I figure I may as well finish Friday that way.

Kaiser Permanente took Michelle’s song and created a wonderful piece of imagery around it – perhaps better than Michelle’s original video for the song.

The 1 minute video reminds me of my grandmothers, two amazing women that I miss very much. My paternal grandmother had breast cancer twice. Beat it both times. Strong woman. Never owned a car that had power brakes. Think about that for a minute:)

KP’s video takes a painful – or at least uncomfortable – experience (mammograms are not typically pain-free, even though they aren’t invasive) and turns it into something totally different.

Not just health care.

Long-time readers are no doubt wondering where the measurement is. How do we know this is effective? Note the URL. Yeah, it’s too small, but it’s there.

If they are tracking the markets where this appears, are they also sending an email or postcard to their patients to reference the commercial, perhaps point them at YouTube and get them in for a mammogram?

Hard to say, but that’s what should be happening.

The main reason I wanted you to see this was so you could absorb and ponder how they took a cold, sometimes painful (or at least uncomfortable), sterile procedure and turned a discussion about it into a warm, kinda-wow experience.

And how you can do the same if you have something of that nature that you sell – particularly if it is as important as a mammogram.