Management wants better products.
Marketing wants different products.
Build better products more efficiently and at lower cost = management = left-brained.
Build products that are different in the mind of the consumer = marketing = right-brained.
Amazon didn't become the leading seller of books by being better than Barnes & Noble. They got there by being different. They sold their books on the Internet instead of through retail stores.
Being different cements the brand into place. Once the startup moves into the leadership position of a new category (see last week's blog), the brand rarely loses its leadership. McDonalds versus Burger King. Facebook versus All the Other Social Sites.
It is best for a startup to find a new category and set out to dominate it, become the new gorilla.
But if you must compete in a market with an established leader, do it differently. Eveready didn't lose its appliance-battery leadership to a better zinc-carbon battery. Eveready lot its leadership to a different product, teh alkaline battery introduced by Duracell.
To create a new category requires you think "different" not "better." That is very difficult for techies to accept. Right-brained marketing minds do.
Try this: How do you know which car is better? Answer: The one that wins in the showroom.
Because it is so difficult to dislodge an established brand that is the leader of a new category, startup founders are much wiser thinking how to be different. They are smart if they aim to find a different category to try to become leader of.
In a new category "better product" can win when giants jump in to try to copy the first to enter the fresh market. Apple continued to "Be Different" in the face of copying efforts by Microsoft (Windows) and the other PC computer manufacturers. Eventually the tide turned in Apple's favor.
But beware, Apple nearly went bankrupt over decades of being mis-managed by leaders who saw their initial leadership share of market sink to an inconsequential percentage. That would kill most startups.
It is best to focus on what winning serial entrepreneurial marketing minds know: If your startup wants to win, find a way to be different, not better.
BOTTOM LINE: Good management wants to make better things. Great startup marketing minds aim instead on being different. Then they have a chance to become the leader of a new category. That leads to gorilla dominance. When you get that you'll be well on your way to building your unfair competitive advantage.
I wish you The Best on your Adventure!
"Marketing is too complicated to be left to management people who have little experience in marketing and who don't understand its principles." wrote Al Ries.
Rated by Advertising Age as one of the Top Ten living legends of marketing, Ries's findings and related implications in the book "War in the Boardroom" are spot on with the markeing challenges that confront first-time entrepreneurs.
This series on startup marketing follows the principles laid down in that book. I highly recommend the book to startup leaders.