A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing: Scale Lessons in Competitive Advantage
It was quite a Summer for Team Norbury. For us It started on July 5thand I was presented with a dilemma… It was a Friday so yes; I was not working. I actually had a fun day planned in London with some great Entrepreneurial friends that I’d made through the Entrepreneurs Circle.
We would start near the O2 where we would be eating our lunch 100 foot up in the air followed by a team game at the crystal maze. All was set until a week before when my son James asked if I was going to his speech day as:
‘you don’t work Fridays do you daddy!’
He basically had me and the thought of missing out on this important event provided me with the easy answer. Can I dine high and run around a maze any other time? YES. Can I attend their final speech day for pre-prep again? NO. Simple really.
I was also suspicious as to why he was checking, so suspected he may have received an award. Our thoughts were confirmed as James did receive a Reading Award for the last term, but the big surprise was Lily getting the accolade of ‘Pre-Prep Sports Girl of the Year’. The look on their faces. The thought of not being there to see this didn’t bear thinking of.
Is this really relevant to my article this month? Well, not really, but such a proud dad moment and being an Entrepreneur means I had that choice to make so many others don’t so hold on to that.
But I did say to James after:
‘you sort of knew you that you won, so you got me there by using my Fridays off to make sure I attended like a wolf in sheep’s clothing’.
He of course put me right that my phrase was inaccurate as his deed was not bad, just ‘disguised (don’t you hate it when your kids keep catching you out).
But ‘disguising’ is a really useful business strategy that can help you eliminate your competition.
Let me explain.
Over the Summer I witnessed these ‘disguises’ in two fairly large organisations.
The first was Barclaycard. Jacki and I bought tickets to see Robbie Williams at Hyde Park. We decided to get VIP tickets as it was an all-day event with several bands supporting Robbie. It was also on the 14thJuly and any sports fan would know that lots of big events were happening that day, Wimbledon Final, British Grand Prix, Cricket World Cup to name a few so access to TV screens was a big tick for us. Most important though was the VIP area had private toilets and the thought of sharing with 50,000 other people swayed our minds.
Now we were there for around 10 hours, a few drinks, a bite to eat and lots of chat ensued. But one thing I noticed was the prevalence of Barclaycard. In essence it appeared to be their event. Not only that this was the fourth BIG concert of the Summer that Barclaycard had promoted. We also know one of the MD’s for Barclaycard and she had told us it was a big thing for them.
Going back to my ‘disguised’ conversation earlier, it became obvious that this sponsorship was genius.
It meant that Barclaycard could wine and dine their best customers, prospects, partners, stakeholders for many many hours. Give them access to things money can’t buy (they had the best seats I have ever seen at an event). Gain access to several million people all for FREE.
Yes, you heard it – for FREE. Why? Because all the attendees, concessions all paid for the event. I am pretty sure the ambition of Barclaycard was just to break even.
What a business model – massive, competitive advantage and brand extension for FREE.
So that was one example. The next was just around the corner, literally.
At the end of July, we were offered an amazing opportunity to train at Chelsea Football Club. Now as most of you know I am a die-hard Liverpool Fan (Let’s talk about SIX baby, #YNWA). But my son and his teammates wanted to see what the life of a professional footballer was really like.
We got to train with their coaches all day, meet some players, and I got more of an understanding of the business of Chelsea.
Speaking to the community liaison contact later in the day I was so surprised when he said that he would be happy to work with me and our school / football club through providing coaches, facilities, support etc. and to contact him to set this up. Again; FREE of charge.
In the afternoon our team played the Chelsea Under-7 development foundation squad and you could see the difference in class, even though we did win one game 5-1 (we may have some premier talent in our local team after all). Then it hit me…
Why would Chelsea invite local teams into their multi-million-pound training centre, give us access to some of the high-tech stuff, their coaches and set up meeting the players. Why would Chelsea want to then help us going forward? So, I asked the obvious question:
‘How many boys / girls do Chelsea have regular contact with through their network?’.
The answer was over a million!!!
By setting up ‘foundations’ in every town across the UK and Europe they have eyes and ears everywhere ready to find the next Messi, Ronaldo, Norbury J
Again, what a clever model. We pay for the training day and they get to see our kids in action without leaving their centre. As it transpires, they want to talk to three parents about closer ties.
I did something similar in my business a few years ago. We provided an outsource service to insurance companies and the companies were all me-too, as in we all did similar.
To create a competitive advantage, we looked across the value chain and saw that us and our competitors had to pay for one service we offered, so had to charge the client the fee plus a margin.
I decided that if we took on a business that offered these services we could then wrap it into our service for FREE, gain more market share, and pay back the acquisition over a period of time giving us a massive competitive advantage. So that’s what we did and our first new client confirmed it was a no brainer selecting us as they would save a LOT of money.
Three examples of ‘disguising’ a product or service to gain something somewhere else.
Here’s a final thought for you. What can you bundle, offer, JV, create that pays for itself by giving it away FREE to gain more market share, competitive advantage and long-term advantage?
It may not be obvious but sometimes the best answers take a bit of digging.
If you really, really like the idea and want help discovering your ‘disguise’ make contact and I will help you for FREE.
See what I did there 🙂
The Scalability Coach | Britain’s Top 10 Adviser 2018 | Author of #1 bestseller I don’t work Fridays | Ex-CEO of a PLC