Dear CMO:
Killing Giants, Parts One and Two resonated with friends and readers. Lots of people over on The Fix sharpening their knives at the thought of toppling giants in their industries.
Can I lay out a few well-deserved “good job, well done” kudo’s to the community? Roll call:
  • Lewis, who is partial to the ‘Zag’ approach and has never been shy to weigh in (even when he’s taking me to task for my Marcus Aurelius quote),
  • Valeria, who is partial to Caravaggio and whose insight into the actual picture I used could have been an alternate title to my post,
  • Ann, another fan of KGiants #5, and who has been an invaluable pal in pushing me out to the community at The Fix,
  • Cam, whose “Speed Kills” outlook must be at odds with his new diapering duties,
  • Mario, another 5-er fan, who brought in two good vignettes from Italian marketing to animate the point (is this a community, or what?),
  • CK, who has so consistently kicked me into gear for so many months I feel guilty when I don’t post, and who is teasing us with a ‘Zag’ book for our next Book Club outing,
  • David, who brought the idea of personal accountability to the ‘Zag’ fan club, with good reason,
  • Gianandrea, whose double case study of Pepsi in Italy showed that even giants can kill giants,
  • John, who gave me a much appreciated boost with his post on starting his own new venture,
  • Jeremy, who animated a point that shows up below, namely extreme focus on where the giant fails,
  • John at Bayer, who offers up how you can outflank the giant and take him over your thin ice,
  • Carol, who nails the “99% of winning is just showing up” Woody Allen strategy (see below? I listened),
  • Tenacious Maria, another huge proponent of #9, below (with thanks),
  • Shashank, who brought in aikido, and a bit of #9, neatly bundled up in an excellent comment and case study from India,
  • Steve, a speed killer from St. Andrews (almost went there in college for a junior year — would have been studying Shakespeare and not Japanese industrial strategy… not sure I did the right thing sometimes…) who delivered us a great case study of thin ice and speed,
  • and Roger, whose writing is inspiring and whose questions make me think. Which hurts sometimes.
Now, on to our next installment. Killing Giants, Reloaded. Part three.
Killing Giants, Part 3:
Lesson #8: Fighting Unfairly
The Greek Fire idea is certainly a wonderful way to fight; having a secret weapon usually tips the scales. What if you don’t have one? What if they do? Nothing wrong with picking an unfair fight. I’ve done this and even slept well at night, too.

Compare your premium product to their standard product. Yes, I know, they have a premium product and you have a standard one. I know. I get it. We’re talking about fighting unfairly. Not picking a fight with someone your own size. At Sony, we went out of our way to compare our under-represented type II audio cassette with TDK’s very successful type I tape. Unfair. We compared Hi8 Metal Particletape with standard MP tape for camcorders. Sure, these are different products. But ours was better. And that’s the point. Pick the fight you want. No one said you had to follow the rules.

Lesson #9: All the wood behind the arrow

The community brought this one to the table, and it’s a great one. They send a sales rep, you send the company. Never hesitate to bring a gun to a knife fight. Overwhelm your giant where you choose to fight.

Alexander. Napoleon. Blitzkrieg. This is the story of relative strength, not absolute strength. You only need to be stronger than your enemy is where you happen to be fighting.

Lesson #10: Be the ball
Goliath Corp. has a catalog containing ten thousand SKU’s. You have one in your entire portfolio. They may know global supply chain, scale manufacturing, and the different sponsorship levels for the Philharmonic. You know your single, solitary customer base.

If this is left-handed Jews named Clem, then that’s what you know. But you know them inside out. You’ve forgotten more about this customer base than your giant competitor will ever know. So flaunt your knowledge. Share your deep understanding. For free. Tell the world (some) of what you know to the extent that the depth of your sharing makes it obvious that you’re so far the expert that facts told them by others will be discounted because they’re not getting them from you.

* * *
Key Takeaways:
> Fighting Unfairly: pick the (unfair) fight you want.
> All the Wood Behind the Arrow: win where you’re fighting. Relative, not absolute, strength.
> Be the Ball: flaunt your knowledge.
* * *

These are ten, solid ways to take the giant in your industry out at the knees. Or, if you prefer the classical reference, right between the eyes.

You can’t necessarily outmuscle them (unless you pick on the scrawny one in the back — lesson #8).

You can’t outspend them (unless you outspend them in a localized way — lesson #9).

And you can’t necessarily be everywhere they are (but you can know more than they ever will — lesson #10).

But there’s nothing that says you can’t beat them. Nothing.*


Copyright (c) 2007 Stephen Denny

PS: * Of course, there are a few ways a giant can kill a flea. Stay tuned?