Zag Ed. 23 – How to Put Yourself Out of Business, Is The Gap Now a Fashion Challenger?, and an Interview with the First-Ever CMO of the NY Times

🤔 Who’s putting you out of business?

It’s a question most of us don’t think to ask. We focus on building our business, sometimes paying attention to what our competitors are doing, maybe even thinking about who we’re trying to challenge. But we don’t step back and think about who and how someone else is actively putting us out of business.

Because someone is. Someone always is – a little bit every day, whether we notice it or not. The market is always changing, always challenging. Every day, someone is finding new, different, better ways to do things. Every day, someone is moving faster and evolving more. Every day, someone is thinking about how to challenge the norm and shake up the industry.

And that someone can be your competition, or it can be you.

Any business can think, act, and grow like a challenger – not just the young, small ones. Because a challenger isn’t defined by size or age – it’s defined by mindset and model. And fundamentally, being a challenger is defined by a relentless drive to put yourself out of business before someone else does – to be your own rival.

Here are some practicable, actionable things you can do to adopt that dimension of a challenger mindset and start trying to put yourself out of business.

Do a Regular “From Scratch” Plan. Challengers grow because they are fully fit for purpose for the world of today. They take mind and market share from the brands and businesses that aren’t – the ones that are still doing things the way they were done yesterday. The best way to know where those gaps are for you is to do an exercise (we’d recommend every quarter) where you think through how you’d start your marketing function from scratch if you were to do it all over again now. You won’t be able to change everything overnight, of course, but at least it will tell you where those gaps are that a challenger (or ideally you) can take advantage.

Assign a “Red Team”. This could be an actual team (and usually is) if you’re in a larger organization, but more likely it’s just someone who has the responsibility for being ‘out in front’ of the rest of the team. The purpose of the “red team” is to think and act in the future that’s ahead of what the brand and business will face and take those learnings back to help guide the way forward. Ask this person (or people) to do a presentation on what the one-year and five-year future looks like for your marketing function and then discuss how you get there effectively. Again, you might not be able to do everything that this plan recommends, but at least you’re out there thinking about the challenges and opportunities you’ll face.

Audit your “Macro Vulnerabilities”. This could be part of a SWOT analysis (another good exercise to do regularly), but with a real focus on the Threats part of it. The cultural, consumer, and competitive landscape is always changing, and that change is only increasing in pace. Change presents risk for those who don’t adapt, and opportunity for those who do. Sit down and think about the biggest challenges that change presents to your marketing function over the next five years (Web3 should be on everyone’s list btw…) and then plan with your team how you’ll adapt and ideally take advantage of that change.

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