General MacArthur’s Key to Marketing Success

By Keith Center

(591 words)

If there is one American WWII general that Australians of my generation can recall it would be MacArthur.  At the beginning of WWII, MacArthur left the Philippines in a hurry and went to my home town, Melbourne, Australia, to set up headquarters for the Allied operations in the Pacific.

At that time, Australia was preparing for an enemy invasion that seemed inevitable, if not immanent.  A controversial strategy had been devised was called “The Brisbane Line”. The top third of the country would be lightly defended and Australian troops would progressively fall back to the city of Brisbane destroying everything that could be used by the enemy.  Through this scorched earth policy, the enemy would be denied access to natural resources as they advanced.

MacArthur acknowledged the plan, but said that Australia was too strategically important and the enemy should not be permitted to get any footing in Australia.

He proposed a counter strategy in his now famous quote.

“Hit ‘em where they ain’t”

The Allies were not strong enough at that point to go head to head with the enemy.  The enemy had many strongholds throughout the Pacific.

MacArthur’s idea was to avoid attacking enemy strongholds and to position Allied strength against the enemy’s weakness, while not exposing their own.

In other words, if the enemy has a stronghold on an island, then bypass that island.  Cut off their supply lines to that stronghold and they will starve and weaken.  It worked so well that MacArthur led 22 successful campaigns in the Pacific with his “Hit ‘em where they ain’t” strategy.

In business it’s the same.  It’s a game of strategy.

In the book Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, Ries and Trout, point out that an average of $375 per capita per year is spent on advertising.  That means that if you have a prospect list of 1,000, then $375,000 is already being spent on influencing them.  And, to overcome that influence, you have to spend more!  That can quickly drain the marketing budget for many mid sized companies, let alone small ones.

So the question should really be, “How do I compete when I don’t have the budget to pay $375 per capita per year for advertising and marketing?”

The answer comes straight from MacArthur…  “Hit ‘em where they ain’t!”

Go where the competition isn’t, a position in the mind that is not currently taken.  They may be thinking of a need, but there is no competitor that comes to mind.  For example, in a cluttered toothpaste market, Tom’s of Maine created their position of “all natural.” In a cluttered pizza market, Dominos created the position that they will get you a hot pizza under 20 minutes.

Volvo is perceived as the “safe car,” and if you think of a prestigious watch, almost everyone thinks Rolex.

Study your competition.  What are they good at?  What are they recognized for?  What are they not known for and what do we do that they do not do?

And it’s not what you think as a computer reseller, it’s what the customer perceives that’s important.

And we need to do the same thing.  Discover what it is that we do best that customers are not currently thinking of.  A service, a value, a description of what we do that the customer does not ascribe to a competitor.

Once you know how your strengths align with your competitions weaknesses, you can take General MacArthur’s advice.  And…

Hit ‘em where they ain’t!

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