Stacking the Deck Against the Competition

In Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm he recommends a key framework for establishing niche market dominance called Creating the Competition.

What he means is to frame your product in such a way that you have a distinct market and a distinct product differentiation, while using your competitors to help educate your prospects on your positioning in both.

The market alternative is the incumbent in the market / problem space whose dollars you are going after.

The product alternative is another company that is disrupting their market using an innovation (possibly similar to yours) that is differentiating as a technology leader.

I believe that today’s business and venture culture has already internalized this insight and that most pitch decks incorporate some version of this in their basic positioning. The pithy catchphrase I’ve seen often is:

We’re the the [innovative product company] of[target market].

Framing Moore’s examples in this shorthand:

  • Silicon Graphics was the HP of media production
  • Quicken was the Managing Your Money (an old financial management program) of paying the bills

The only thing to add to the now common shorthand is an explicit reference to a competitor in the Market Alternative. This makes it even easier to explain your positioning in a crowded market.

I’ve found that the tech industry is full of companies who are positioning themselves in this manner. They define their key product innovation in terms of successful existing players, but then address a specific niche market. For example, every marketplace product positions themselves as “the Uber of [traditional market]”

This is a good lesson when thinking about how to launch new products and features or companies – trying to avoid the “me-too” trap by defining the competition.