Category Wars

We had a client this week that didn’t want to buy radio advertising because one of their competitors runs radio ads. They thought that since those guys were already on, there was no point to throwing their hat into the ring. To me, this makes very little sense. But, that opinion comes up fairly often in some categories. The funny thing is, that mentality tends to disappear the bigger the category gets. Take the car dealership category for example. Every radio station is overrun with car ads. You can’t listen to a commercial break without catching one or two. But, that never stops them from advertising on radio. Personally, I agree somewhat with those who don’t want to flood a station that features their competitors. I do think that car ads become more of a tune out the more that they run. All of that can be changed with great radio ads though. But, that’s not the point I want to make today. The point is, one competitor shouldn’t stop you from making your mark. In this example, the category was a Lasik eye clinic. The part of this that made us laugh was how concerned they were about another Lasik clinic being on air already. They however had no worries about the three or four eyeglass stores that were currently running. This leads me to a good point.

Know your competitors – In this businesses case I would argue that there was more to be gained by competing against the eyeglass stores then there was by competing with another Lasik clinic. Those who buy glasses should be the major target for the clinic. It may be more beneficial to take business away from an eyeglass store than it would be to target another Lasik clinic.

Positioning – Now let’s say that you are trying to compete with those other businesses from your category. It can be pretty tough if there are a dozen other companies all buying radio time. The more companies on air, the harder it will be for you to differentiate yourself from them. You need to make your business stand out and become relevant to the market place and your prospective clients. It can be hard for a car dealership to fight against its many competitors. But, for a Lasik clinic that’s trying to battle one other clinic, it’s pretty easy. There is a lot of room under the spectrum to focus your efforts. Positioning is what defines your space in the buyers mind. I talked about this clinic in another blog posting and I mentioned that we decided to brand them as the “Lasik clinic for those who are afraid of eye surgery.” That is their brand, but it’s also their position. It targets a large section of the total possible client base. By choosing a specific group to speak to, they’ve successfully established a position in the spectrum.

Basically, don’t allow other businesses to scare you out of promoting your business. I don’t care if they can outspend you 10-1. There is always a way to position your brand to compete against them. Sometimes the fact that your competitors are advertising should be a sign to you that you need to do the same. That’s a no brainer when you’re only competing against one other voice.