For years I have held a strong belief that, in the consulting and training business, the most dangerous foe is not one of our competitors. Instead, our greatest competition comes from inaction; clients deciding to stay with the status quo, not hire anyone, or delay their training initiative altogether. Too often, we lose the business to “doing nothing” rather than our competitive rivals. If the economy worsens, “doing nothing” becomes an even more prolific option.
It is obvious that “doing nothing” has expanded its competitive presence into many other industries as well. Any industry where growth comes from zero sum game competition, (if you win the business another similar company is losing it) is being severely impacted by the specter of “doing nothing.” In a tough or uncertain economy, customers become more risk averse, preferring to ride the status quo. That makes it harder than ever for product/service providers to gain market share unless they are willing to dramatically lower the price point. I call that the “me too for less” pricing strategy and it is NOT a great plan in most cases.
Any industry viewed as dependent upon discretionary or “non-core”spending is being impacted like never before by the competitive rise of “doing nothing” Just look at the travel industry. Even such venerable travel destinations as Hawaii are posting a 16% drop in room occupancy over the same period in 2012. The car industry’s woes have certainly been well documented, as have most industries that depend upon gaining access to disposable income. Right now, “doing nothing” is often the keeper of the disposable income wallet.
So how do we combat the formidable competition of inaction and grow our businesses through lean or uncertain times? As stated above, lowering your price might help… in some cases… for the short term; but it’s a dangerous strategy at best. In many industries the main driver isn’t price anyway; because the customer simply may not have the budget regardless of the “deal” being offered. It can be a formidable challenge to be sure.
I wish I had an easy answer to the threat of “doing nothing” because, in my industry, we’ve been going up against this adversary for years. The only solution I have found is to hone in on the position you desire in your market, and commit completely to owning that space. Get crystal clear on your organization’s strengths and competitive advantages and make sure everyone in your organization is aligned to your value proposition. As Simon Sinek writes in “Start With Why” you need to get clear and communicate why you are in business ahead of the what and how. Then go out and work your butt off. It isn’t glamorous, but it is effective. I have found that while “doing nothing” is a tough competitor, it is perpetually plagued with low levels of customer loyalty and is easily worn down if you just keep working hard at selling the right way.