September 5, 2019
There are several options in any organization’s toolbelt when it comes to identifying, targeting, and eventually selling to a key market segment. Most of these combine consumer feedback with meaningful data. However, if you find that competitors seemingly are always a step ahead of you, then one of the best ways to start moving ahead in your market is by thinking like them.
A great approach to do this is through competitive scenario planning, or “Wargaming.” This is a concept that the military has practiced for centuries to prepare for possibilities and eventualities based on their understanding of the mentality, strengths, and weaknesses of their competitors. For the military, these are analytical games that simulate aspects of warfare at tactical, operation, or strategic levels.
While it may have military roots, the concept is just as applicable in a business setting. Businesses can benefit from taking the time to really study the competitors in their marketplace and truly get “inside their heads.” This takes time and concerted effort. It goes way beyond studying market share, sales trends, ad copy, and competitive reviews. Although these data measurements are important, it is critical to take the time to look at this information in a greater strategic context.
Wargaming is purposeful and planned. It helps you to examine your competition from various angles and forces you to focus on their possible strategy and execution from the bottom up. It is a great activity to do as part of yearly strategic planning so you not only plan your own strategy and tactics for the coming year, but you do so in the context of what you anticipate to be happening in the marketplace.
Business Wargaming involves gathering extensive information about your key competitors and your own company so you can compare them. It is helpful to explore the efforts and actions of your competitors from all angles – immersing yourself in your competitor’s shoes to fully understand their strategy, tactics, and what seems to be working for them as well as where they are vulnerable. It allows you to anticipate what they will do next so you can put both an offensive and defensive plan together to be ready. It is important to layout all possible scenarios of your competitors next likely actions and based on each, what you would do to protect your business and differentiate.
Wargaming is most effective when you truly take off your daily corporate hat and “become the competitor.” You step out of your own shoes and into theirs for a day. You see the world through their eyes and it truly changes the perspective of your own business. Every time we facilitate a Wargaming session, it is eye opening and the client plans not only materially change but then we have a playbook of possible scenarios and counter moves based on those possibilities.
There are a few things to keep in mind when preparing for and execution a Wargaming session.
1.) Preparation is Key – You have the heard the term, “garbage in, garbage out.” In the case of Wargaming, these sessions are only as good as the preparation and materials developed and compiled beforehand. You also need to pick the right participants for your workshop from various departments. It is key to keep the group small enough to be manageable but large enough to ensure you have a variety of perspectives and expertise.
2.) To Truly Understand Your Competitors’ Strategy, You Need to Thoroughly Immerse into Their Business – To deeply understand the competition’s strategy, you need to take the time to examine all aspects of their business. This truly means doing the homework on your competition. Review all elements available in the public domain, including but not limited to: ads, reviews, website content / blogs, latest news, and sales / share information if available. It is also helpful to get feedback from customers or influencers about their perception of the competition.
3.) Take Off Your Corporate Hat and Become the Competition for a Day – Roleplaying is critical to immerse into the competitor’s “shoes” for the day. Only when you take off your current “hat,” can you truly start understanding the perspective of the competition to best move forward with your own strategies.
Like most strategies that are worthwhile, Wargaming will take a lot of time and effort regarding the preparation, during the session itself, and once the session is complete to determine next steps. However, if you are able to put the time and effort toward this process, Wargaming is a great way to move ahead in your market by truly thinking like the competitor.
Michele is Aspirant's Director of Marketing & Innovation, and is a senior marketer and facilitator with 25 years of extensive experience in brand management, strategy development, Design Thinking, and innovation. She works with various corporations and non-profit businesses as a consultant to help them grow their business through strong strategy, marketing plans, and skills development. She has worked with companies in the Fortune 100 and Global 1000 as well as mid-sized companies in a range of industries, with a focus on healthcare.