TriComB2B Blogger - Chris Eifert

Does Your Competition Really Have to Be Your Competition?

Chris Eifert

America may run on Dunkin’, but the company needs to have a lot more than coffee and donuts on its mind to achieve their latest marketing goals. Allow me to explain.

You may have already read it: Dunkin’ Donuts is considering changing the name adorning countless donut shops across the land to just Dunkin’. Really? Well, it might just happen — and for good reason. For years, Dunkin’ has been marketing itself as a coffee chain with their “America Runs on Dunkin’” slogan. While they’ll still sell donuts, they had decided years ago to change their positioning; instead of competing with donut shops, they’ve moved up the food chain to higher-end coffee shops that offer a broader range of food options.

Bold Repositioning

I’m not a consumer marketing expert, but this makes perfect sense. Change your positioning and shift to higher-margin products expected of a coffee shop. I’m guessing they might even charge a little more for donuts than when they were “just” a donut shop.

I don’t eat donuts anymore, but I do maintain a steady diet of B2B marketing strategy. Recently, we’ve been working with a lot of clients who are reconsidering how they want their products or companies to be positioned, and it’s pretty much for the same reasons Dunkin’ Donuts wants to become Dunkin’. A strong repositioning has the power to reduce the number of instances in which they must engage in those brutal feature-for-feature, benefit-for-benefit slugfests with similar-looking competitors — where pricing managers send bloodied sales engineers back into the field for another round of price reductions.

Repositioning Can Change Your Competition and the Conversation

While companies reconsider how they want to be perceived in the market, they often find themselves shifting into an entirely different competitor set. And that’s a good thing. Consider some recent examples we’ve seen:

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  • An industrial manufacturer steers its marketing message away from similar industrial competitors, instead choosing to take on lesser-duty, offshore commercial grade products that are encroaching into applications where they just don’t belong.
      • A global equipment manufacturer narrows the focus of its performance monitoring and asset management capabilities to emphasize a singular equipment category, helping them avoid getting lost in a sea of larger, more comprehensive plant monitoring solution providers.
      • A motor manufacturer introduces a product range that uses a technology the target market traditionally doesn’t access, effectively eliminating traditional competitors from the discussion and creating a more sophisticated discussion about underlying technology.
      • A lumber company repositions itself as a specialty hardwoods manufacturer, effectively removing itself from the wood vs. wood commodity competition to compete with a completely different, premium building materials competitor set — a change that moved the conversation to aesthetics instead of price.

      Every donut has a hole; what makes them different from baker to baker is a combination of cooking time, temperature and ingredients. In B2B marketing, you’re often just a feature or an application ahead of total parity in your category. Spending a lot of time positioning and messaging within your category can, on a good day, be aggravating. On a bad day, it feels like an exercise in futility.

      A bold repositioning can change the competitive landscape and offer an escape from the feature-for-feature battles that keep prices down, margins low and — Heaven forbid — execs wondering whether they should take another swipe at that marketing budget to cut costs.

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