One of the most important issues any business founder or leader must tackle is how they are going to differentiate their offering. Everyone in your industry is trying to build a better mousetrap, counting on doing the same is not a wise move. Your competitors are looking at ways to be more efficient. They are looking at offering new features customers want. They are looking at pricing strategies that will give them an advantage. It’s the height of arrogance to think you are going to succeed along these attributes by being smarter or more creative, there are a lot of very smart people at your competitors.
Part of the answer in addressing this situation is to pursue a Blue Ocean strategy, which I have written about several times. The core of Blue Ocean Strategy is that rather than trying to win against entrenched competitors you find and target uncontested market space where the competition is irrelevant. Red oceans are a known market space with many competitors where you fight for market share. In red oceans, it is all about beat the competition and exploiting existing demand. Blue oceans is an unknown market with few competitors where you are creating market share.
Another, or complementary, way to approach building a competitive advantage outside the red ocean is by doing the opposite. A blog post by Growth strategy legend Brian Balfour, Doing the Opposite, highlights the opportunity with this approach. As Balfour writes, “categories tend to converge on value props, features, messaging, and even design over time. It’s why every SaaS website looks exactly the same. This means you need to reinvent yourself on a consistent cycle.”
As sectors mature, it leaves opportunities for doing the opposite. Balfour points out “[w]hen a category converges, there tends to be an audience looking for something completely different. One of many ways to find this open space is to ask what the opposite is….”
Finding the opposite
To address this opportunity, there are two steps. First, you should list the primary characteristics and elements currently in the category. Then ask yourself (or your team), what would an offering look like if we did the exact opposite of each of these characteristics. It could be pricing, target market, marketing creative, key features, look and feel, platform, etc.
From this analysis, determine if there is an opportunity to penetrate a different market that current companies are not appealing to. Balfour uses the example of a gym. While most of the companies in the space were promoting “X-minute abs,” there was an opportunity to focus on experienced professionals at a high price point who did not like inflated claims (i.e. look like Chris Hemsworth in three weeks).
Applications in social casino and iGaming
Doing the opposite is a tremendous opportunity for both social casino and real money gaming companies. The space is largely defined with all competitors competing in almost exactly the same manner. They increase the number of slot machines, improve in-product events, and add in some progression and social features. While the space has grown, in part a shift away from land-based gaming due to Coronavirus, it has not appealed to “adjacent users.” By looking at ways to do the opposite, a company can find a much less competitive space with a potentially huge untapped market.
- A powerful way to find a competitive advantage is to do the opposite of what other companies in the industry are doing. Mature industries tend to converge, creating an opportunity to appeal to customers who do not like the homogenous offerings.
- To uncover the opportunity, first list the primary characteristics and elements currently in the category and then ask yourself what would an offering look like if we did the exact opposite.
- This strategy represents a particularly appealing opportunity in the social casino and real money gaming spaces, where the offering has largely converged.