All’s Fair in Love, War, and Business — Addressing a Competitor’s Bold Moves

It’s no coincidence that Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, announced that his platform would ban political ads less than an hour before Facebook’s much-anticipated Q3 earnings call. It wasn’t the first time that a competitor made a business decision that forced a company to either follow suit or defend its position.

It’s no coincidence that Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, announced that his platform would ban political ads less than an hour before Facebook’s much-anticipated third-quarter earnings call. While this is a business decision, and Dorsey will forgo revenue as a result, his move had a broad-reaching marketing impact; especially given the timing.

Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t typically do well in the hot seat; however, he stood behind his policy, saying, “I don’t think it’s right for private companies to censor politicians and the news.”

I can only speculate, but it’s likely that Zuckerberg, his legal, marketing, PR, and investor relations teams held an eleventh-hour strategy session to prep and align on Facebook’s response ahead of the earnings call, and for the coming days.

Companies on the Defensive

It wasn’t the first time, nor will it be the last, that a competitor made a business decision that forced a company to either follow suit or defend its alternate position.

In early October, Charles Schwab made a surprising announcement that it would eliminate commission fees on online stock, ETF, and options trades. Hours later, TD Ameritrade announced it would also reduce fees to zero. E-Trade did the same the following day.

All is fair in love, war, and business. When a competitor makes a bold move, business leaders must make tough decisions that have major ramifications — financial, moral, ethical, and otherwise. In order to address the competition’s news, a strategic marketing response is required.

Marketing and Communications Readiness to Counter the Competition

Whether or not your company plans to follow a competitor’s lead or chart your own path, marketing and communications readiness will ensure you communicate effectively with customers, prospects, and the general public surrounding the matter.

Close Alignment With Leadership

A response to the competition’s news is more successful if marketing has a seat at the table with leaders as they make any related decision. The marketing team can be a sounding board on the reputational impact of the business decision and can help with the planning and strategy for the response to ensure the company’s position relative to the competition is clear.

Real-Time, Multichannel Response

Following Charles Schwab’s announcement, the companies who reduced their fees in step with Schwab needed to move quickly to retain their customers and ride the news wave. Again, alignment with leaders is crucial, because marketing teams can only move quickly with marketing efforts if they have access to stakeholders and decision-makers.

Digital channels allow for the quickest turnaround for marketing efforts and a variety of levers must be pulled simultaneously to have the greatest impact. This requires a collaborative approach across marketing, sales, client relationship management, and other teams.

Strong PR Foundation

Well ahead of these circumstances, it is important to have a solid PR foundation, including approved subject matter experts who have been vetted, prepped, and coached.

Additionally, PR teams should be continuously building media relationships before there’s even news to share. Then, when it is time to participate in a relevant dialogue, the reporter knows your company and will be more likely return calls or emails.

Reclaim the Competitive Advantage

There’s no way to anticipate every move your competitor will make. However, if you’re strategic and prepared, you can use your competitor’s news to your marketing advantage.

Turning Social Media Into Customer – And Shareholder – Value

Forrester Research reports advertisers will spend $716 million on social media marketing (including ads on social networks, corporate blogs, etc) in 2010, but that will grow by 34 percent to top $3.1 billion in 2014. The investment shift reflects changing consumer behavior and acknowledgement that customers increasingly learn about a brand through the company, its employees, other customers and even competitors.

Forrester Research reports advertisers will spend $716 million on social media marketing (including ads on social networks, corporate blogs, etc.) in 2010, and that number will grow 34 percent to top $3.1 billion by 2014. The investment shift reflects changing consumer behavior and acknowledgement that consumers increasingly learn about brands — e.g., their employees, customers and even competitors — via social networks.

While search growth shows signs of slowing, the conversations happening in social settings — which aren’t slowing down — drive search behavior. They reflect the sum of all strategic decisions that affect a brand’s ability to efficiently increase its value over time. In turn, proactive marketers and investor relations pros are making up for the slowing growth of search by leveraging social media for new growth. However, in order for social media to invite an emotional attachment and deliver tangible shareholder value, it needs to scale within an organization from the top down.

Networking solutions provider Novell is embracing social media as a strategic foundation on which it does business. According to John Dragoon, chief marketing officer for Novell, “The ‘social’ part of social media means that you have to get as many people involved as possible …” At a time when Novell profits slipped amid uncertainty, the company refocused on a clear sense of purpose and a mission to deliver unique customer value one step at a time. Social media helped the company communicate these accomplishments not just to customers, but to shareholders, its workforce and others.

For Novell and other companies that want to improve external communications, it only makes sense to embrace the efficiency and searchability of social media. Today, consumers create their own media schedules and can easily edit, copy, produce and distribute content. Furthermore, with internet television services like Google TV coming soon, it’s only a matter of time before C-level executives foster two-way dialogs with key stakeholders in searchable media.

Therefore, it’s best for companies to think about social media in the form of content and context.

Content:
Social media can complement formal press releases. It provides a forum for quality, two-way dialog with key stakeholders to evaluate where a company has been, where it’s going and other important topics of value to participants.


Context: Inbound links and topical content webs convey the strategic value of a product/service within the context of the business/marketplace. They answer critical, high-value questions like:

  • What do customers do with your product or service?
  • How does your solution solve a consumer pain point?
  • What’s unique and differentiating about your product or service relative to the competition?