Three Strategic Approaches to Beat the Competition [By Sonia Wang]

Many a time, it is a zero-sum game in the business world. Your gains might be at the expense of others’ loss, and vice versa. To be able to beat the competition is no longer simply a bonus, it is becoming more of a necessity for survival in the long run. Thus, how can a business beat the competition?

Go After Blue Ocean

The concept of Blue Ocean Strategy is familiar to many of us. Simply put, to create uncontested market space and make competition irrelevant. By breaking the value-cost trade off and reaching beyond existing demand and supply, companies would be able to avoid cutthroat competition in a bloody red ocean of competitors.

Take the circus industry, for example. Rise in alternative forms of entertainment such as video games, sporting events and increasing sentiment against the use of animals in circuses have resulted in a shrinking traditional circus industry. Under the situation, Cirque de Soleil did not take customers from the already shrinking industry that historically catered to children. Instead, it challenged the industry convention and created uncontested market for its own. It appealed to a whole new group of customers, i.e. adults and corporate clients who are prepared to pay a price several times as great as traditional circus. Cirque du Soleil nowadays has become a billion dollar business with more than 180 million spectators in more than 400 cities in over 60 countries.

Be Customer-Centric

The relationship between businesses and customers are constantly evolving, but there is one thing that doesn’t change, that is customers’ needs should always be put first and core of everything of what your business does.

Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, often leaves a seat open at his conference tables to remind all people present that the most important person in the conversation is the “customer”. Also, from Kindle to drone delivery, all of Amazon’s innovations are aimed at adding value to the customers. Furthermore, every manager at Amazon spends two days every two years at the customer service desk. This ensures that the company is listening to the customers and understanding their needs at every organizational level.

By understanding customers’ needs and giving them what they need, your business is already on its way to beat the competition.

Focus on Quality

Could you image a muskmelon that costs $200 upwards a piece? It sounds insanely expensive for a piece of fruit, but this is how Sembikiya, a premium fruit store in Tokyo, beat the competition in traditional agricultural product space by making supreme quality their UVP. Muskmelons sold in Sembikiya are typically grown with the “one stalk on fruit” method, in which the superfluous fruits are removed so that they don’t take away the nutrients. People know the extraordinary efforts that go into the making of a muskmelon, so they don’t consider the price ridiculous. In this case, Sembikiya is no longer competing in the same league as the rest of the fruit sellers. Sembikiya’s strong focus on supreme quality has made their success last for over 180 years since 1834.

Focusing on quality does not only work well on product, it works equally well on service. Richard Branson disrupted the airlines industry by launching Virgin Atlantic. At the time, major airlines, such as British Airways, were dominating the market. It made breaking into the airline industry extremely difficult. Virgin Atlantic differentiated itself by not only fulfilling customers’ basic needs, but also introducing additional features such as hydrotherapy baths, in-flight messages, backseat video screens in every class, and free ice cream during movies. The launch of Virgin Atlantic proved to be a tremendous success for Virgin Group.

If your business has the right focus on market, customers and quality, no matter which industry you are in, it is possible to beat the competition, and be an industry disruptor and leader.

Astrum People. (2018). Richard Branson Biography: Success Story of Virgin Group Founder. Retrieved from
Branson, Richard. (2013). Like a Virgin. London, UK: Random House
Jaiswal, Vivek. (2017, September 4). World’s 3 MOST Customer-Centric Companies: How do they do it!!. Retrieved from
Kim & Mauborgne. (2005 – 2018). Cirque Du Soleil. Retrieved from
Layton, Sarah. (2009, April 21). Red Ocean vs. Blue Ocean. Retrieved from
Mogi, Ken. (2017). The Little Book of Ikigai: the Essential Japanese Way to Finding Your Purpose in Life. London, UK: Quercus Editions Ltd.

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