Each quarter we publish a whitepaper in which we delve into topics of marketing, creativity, and innovation. In the previous edition, titled Please Watch Your Head, we explored how innovation and execution ceilings are affecting your team’s creativity. This time, we tackled the idea of differentiation and how you can get ahead of the game. It is easy to benchmark against your closest competitors, however, often you need to look beyond your close competition if you want to compete more effectively.
We feel threatened when our competitors do something different, so it’s easy to obsess over their activities. That line of thinking is destructive. It can lead us to follow the tracks created by the current market leader. We’ll question our own actions and may miss opportunities to take the business in an alternate, and potentially more lucrative, direction.
To create distance from the competition, set your sights on a new competitor— someone you admire but who operates in a completely different industry. Practice putting yourself in their business to gain new ideas and an outsider’s perspective on your own industry.
- Host a cross-industry brainstorm
One of the difficulties in-house marketing teams face is insular thinking. This isn’t a result of an inability to think of the big picture, but more a symptom of their proximity to the problems they are trying to solve. In our experience, those old problems are easily conquered when you invite new problem-solvers to the table.
Do you know marketing and creative professionals from a different industry? Try bringing them together to solve business challenges. Professional development organizations are great platforms to meet people and host brainstorming events, so sign up for your local chapter of International Association of Business Communicators, Creative Mornings, Ace Class, Toastmasters, your alma mater, or a special interest group. Event coordinators for these groups are often looking for new ideas or activities to incorporate into upcoming seminars.
- Read another industry’s publication
Every industry has them: trade publications. You know the ones we’re talking about— the ones that call you every few months asking for ad sales. Love them or hate them, there are a lot of them, and they regularly publish interviews with established and emerging players in the industries they represent.
There is a good chance you’ve taken a look at what is happening in your industry mags (or, at the very least, you’ve told your boss that you have done so). But what about looking at other industry’s trade pubs?
Read the articles and see how these businesses, which have no relation to yours, are innovating.
There are not always going to be direct transfers, and sometimes you’ll have to stretch your imagination, but we promise that you will take away new ideas that you can apply to your business. In the very least, exploring a completely unrelated industry will make you look at your own through a different set of lenses.
- Interview a fellow marketer from a different industry
In our own blog, we regularly publish “Meet the Marketer” and “Creative Crush” blog posts. We reach out to people we admire, set up an interview and ask them five simple questions. It gives us a chance to network with marketing and creative professionals, and it always inspires some fresh ideas that we can apply to our own business. If you’re feeling stuck on a project or at work, try this for yourself.
Hit LinkedIn and search for a marketing professional who works for a company in a completely different industry from your own. If she lives in your hometown, treat her to coffee or lunch. If meeting in person isn’t an option, connect for a phone or Skype call. Interview her for a blog post you’re going to write that ’s called, “What I learned about marketing in industry X” (or something sexier).
Interviewing marketers regularly is like tapping into a well of fresh thinking that never runs dry. It will energize you and help you examine your company, department, or products with new eyes. You’ll discover strategies that have been proven in other industries, and you’ll gain the confidence to implement them in your own company.
- Choose a mentor brand
We believe it ’s important to look outside your industry for inspiration, so we encourage all organizations to identify what we call a mentor brand. It’s a company in a completely different industry from your own, but one that connects to its customers in a similar way.
To identify a mentor brand, you must first get clear on your brand positioning and values. Then, take to the Internet and start looking at what successful brands are doing.
Browse websites like AdWeek and Strategy to find an organization whose marketing and advertising you admire. A good mentor brand is one that operates in an unrelated industry but shares a similar positioning and values – such as offering the most caring customer service, helping customers lead more fulfilling lives or building a community of likeminded individuals.
Once you’ve identified a mentor brand, monitor it for inspiration. How is the brand transforming the way it delivers its product and services to customers, what have they done to strengthen and define their corporate culture, how do they talk about themselves on social media, and what do they promote in advertising?
You won’t even notice you’re crushing the competition next door because you’ll be too busy measuring yourself against the marketers and industries you admire.
Do you want to “Change your Competition and Start Competing?” Download our whitepaper to find out more ways to break away from your industry’s standard.