“Competitive strategy is about being different. It means deliberately choosing a different set of activities to deliver a unique mix of value.”
— Michael E. Porter, “What is Strategy?”
It’s about being different.
We get it in our heads that we want to be like our big competitors. That we want to fit into our category. That we want to be seen as similar to the other options.
And yet that way is business death.
“Fitting in” is a form of camouflage. It’s making yourself an apple to fit in with the other apples, to be judged based on criteria you don’t control.
Instead, we need to stand out.
We don’t need to be “one of the options” for every possible customer, we need to be the only option for a particular buyer.
If we’re being compared against, reviewed against, considered against several different options, we’re in a race to the bottom. A race to be the cheapest, the fastest, the most flexible, the most willing to do whatever it takes to win.
And it usually takes everything.
Our profit, our satisfaction, our ability to improve and do our very best work.
But competitive strategy, as Porter points out, is about choosing a different set of activities that allow us to deliver a unique mix of value.
Not what everyone else is doing, but cheaper.
Not what everyone else is doing, but local.
Not what everyone else is doing, but faster.
But what no one else is able to do at all.
Because of our unique set of tradeoffs, and unique set of values.
So, don’t ask: How can I fit in?
Ask: How can I stand out?