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If One Does Not Do Any Planning, One Is Planning To Fail

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An enterprise may adopt different marketing strategies dependent on the size and position of the business in its industry. The marketing strategy adopted may prove crucial to generate sales. These marketing strategies are often the result of competitive forces. The different techniques to tackle marketing opponents, or defending one's turf against competitors, are dealt with.

• Market challengers

In order to expand market share it will often be necessary to compete against other businesses delivering similar products and services. Such enterprises may choose to undertake one of the following;

  • Challenge the market leader by capitalising on unserved or poorly served markets;

  • challenge enterprises of a similar size who are performing poorly and who are underfinanced; and

  • challenge smaller enterprises who are poor performers and underfinanced.

Before competitors are challenged, some groundwork is required on;

  • Who the competition is;

  • the financial standing of competition;

  • the market share of competitors;

  • the goals and assumptions;

  • strengths and weaknesses;

  • probable reactions from competitors.

Once that is taken care of and enough information assimilated, an attack strategy is to be chosen. You will notice that these strategies carry a military flavour, as they have been adopted by marketing strategists. The frontal attack is the first option an enterprise may exercise. In doing this, the opponent's strengths are attacked rather than weaknesses. In the end, the business with the most strength and endurance will win. To be successful, some form of strength advantage over the competition is required. This may be price or value. A second option may be the flank attack. In military parlance this involves feinting an attack on strong defences to tie up the defender whilst launching an attack from the side or rear. Two flanking options are geographical and segmentation. Geographic means doing business in areas where competition performs poorly. Segmentation is uncovering market needs not served by competition.

A bypass attack will be directed at easier markets to broaden the resource base. The business may opt to diversify into unrelated products or go for new technology. Instead of imitation, the challenger will develop new technology. When superiority is achieved, the ensueing battle will be on its own territory. Should your resources be limited, the guerilla strategy may be indicated. To do this small, intermittent probes are launched with the intention of harassing and demoralising the opposition. The tactics employed may consist of price cuts, hiring the opposition's best staff, intense bursts of advertising and legal action.

• Defensive strategies

It may happen that your enterprise finds itself on the receiving end of competitive thrusts by the opposition. In such scenarios one needs a number of options to defy competitors.

Position defence is the most difficult alternative. The danger is that the business engaged in this form of defence will rely on existing products or business methods. A flanking defensive strategy is one where an enterprise will ensure that competitors will not pursue flank attack strategies. To do this, the business should ensure that it does not neglect any segments of its market or any geographical areas. Once a competitor gains a foothold in one of these, your business may be in jeopardy.

Businesses may opt for a preemptive defence. This is carried out when the business takes action steps before a competitor launches an attack. Some enterprises will execute such a strategy when they sense a competitor growing too big for comfort. Strategies to keep the other parties on the defence will be actively pursued. Some enterprises will initiate severe price cuts to force other parties to imitate. Obviously such moves are difficult to mirror should one not be in a position to weather the effect on cash flow.


Strategic planning is not a panacea for ills. It will not automatically ensure success. Sometimes one will make mistakes, assume incorrectly and make incorrect decisions stemming from this. The alternative, not to undertake any strategic planning, is even more dangerous. If one does not do any planning, one is planning to fail.

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