I’m afraid that if I ever took a punch in the mouth from Mike Tyson, my championship dreams would be over. In all likelihood, I’d be “pushing up daisies” where he planted me. However, a professional boxer might shake off his punch, mainly if he prepared for it. Additionally, the boxing pro will adjust his fight plan to avoid more of Iron Mike’s potentially devasting knock-out punches.
During my service as a Naval Aviator, we lived by the maxim, “Plan for success, but prepare for failure.” We did not want to, figuratively, get caught off guard and get punched in the mouth or, literally, auger-into the earth or sea as we would be pushing up daisies in the grease spot marking our “downed” flight. So, we anticipated, planned, and trained (and trained, and trained…) to handle contingencies, those most likely to occur and those most devastating.
s*#t (contingencies) happens!”
Contingency planning is a must because “s*#t (contingencies) happens!” It’s the difference between getting up off the mat or staying down for the count—success or failure. When we undertake contingency planning, we need to go beyond those external actions from competitors to include those internal problems (e.g., product quality issues, manufacturing delays, reduction in marketing funding—among other contingencies) that might undermine the achievement of our goals for the brand. We need to respond versus reacting to internal and external contingencies to, at minimum, optimize brand performance and, hopefully, maximize it.
How might we approach competitive contingency planning? What framework might we adopt? The answer to both of these questions revolve around the following:
- What are we planning to achieve? This question goes beyond business objectives to focus on our ambition for the brand. Namely, do we want to become the category leader, challenger, or fast follower? Or, instead, is our ambition focused on a segment or class of drug? Perhaps, our ambition is to occupy a “specialty” (I purposely avoid the word “niche,” as large corporations believe these are too small to pursue) area, where we can attain the leading market share position?
- What competitors are we planning for? Our first consideration is whether we are preparing for the immediate- or short-term versus long-term. For example, we might begin our focus on immediate- or short-term competitors for a launch product. Also, it might be a good idea to create an “ideal” product as a worse-case “straw(wo)man” (in other words, a Mike Tyson).
- How do we stack-up with the chosen competition? We address this question through benchmarking. However, when benchmarking, we need to go beyond the product to include intangibles, company capabilities, labeling, share of voice (e.g., feet on street), promotional practices, marketing support, etc.). Benchmarking will help us identify our vulnerabilities—those likely places a savvy competitor would strike!
- What must we be prepared to address from our competition? Both the previous and this question require a sound knowledge of our competitors. How do they “go to market?” How do they compete? We should know them so well that we can anticipate the various strategies and actions they will take to prevent us from achieving our ambition and bolstering their business (at our expense).
- What strategic license do we have? Our labeling, ingredients, and design will establish parameters for promotion and messaging. However, that’s merely a starting point. We need to determine what it is that our management will allow and not permit us to do. For example, do we have license to modify the product? Launch additional (clinical) studies to capture new data points that will help us differentiate or achieve other indications (uses)? Add sales personnel? This is about where we have permission to invest and deploy resources to contend with competitors’ potential strategies and actions.
Addressing the questions above can provide a solid framework for contingency planning. Then we need to create strategically appropriate responses that target avoidance, deflection, pre-emption, and countering competitors’ actions.
Get on with contingency planning, so your brand does not fall victim to competitors. Take action to become the victor.
Avoid leaving openings for your competition to thwart your marketing. Read AVOIDING CRITICAL MARKETING ERRORS: How to Go from Dumb to Smart Marketing and help make your marketing bullet-proof. Learn more here: http://bdn-intl.com/avoiding-critical-marketing-errors
Stay SAFE and be well.
Peace and best wishes,