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How Military Strategy Can Guide Defense Contractor Marketing

Defense contractors who employ the military strategy of "concentration of forces" as it relates to their marketing strategy can crush opponents with too broad a front.

In a business world where too many companies try to be all things to all people, those that narrow their focus are then able to own a distinct positioning in the minds of their prospective customers.

In a recent Advertising Age article, marketing great Al Ries (author of  one of the seminal marketing books of the 20th Century "Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind,") reviews the dictionary definition of strategy:

"The science of planning and directing large-scale military operations, specifically maneuvering forces into the most advantageous position prior to engagement with the enemy."

And that "advantageous position" can best be explained by Karl von Clausewitz, who competes with Sun Tzu as the most famous military strategist:

"Keep the forces concentrated in an overpowering mass. The fundamental idea always to be aimed at before all and as far as possible."

Ries gives examples of marketers who, at their own peril, are trying to be all things to all people.

  1. Hewlett-Packard - In a recent Wall Street Journal interview, H-P's new CEO, Leo Apotheker provides a laundry list of disparate corporate initiatives that, as Ries sees it, is a non-strategy of "expanding the brand in all directions."
  2. Wells Fargo - The smallest of the "Big 4" banks, is going to ramp up its efforts to compete in the highly competitive insurance market (which represents just 2.5% of its current revenues).  Rather than concentrating its efforts on the banking front where there is a core competency and room for growth, it's broadening its focus and dissipating its forces.

Ries gives one non-military example of the benefits and shortcomings of a defined, narrowed marketing strategy when talking about the nozzle on a garden hose:

"Strategy is like a garden hose with an adjustable nozzle. Turn it one way to increase the concentration and out comes a powerful stream of water that could knock down a child. Turn it the other way and out comes a fine mist that wouldn't harm a butterfly."

Click on the following link to read the full article, Do You Have Everything Except a Marketing Strategy?

The Principal and Founder of Artillery, Douglas Burdett is a former artillery officer and Madison Avenue ad man. He also hosts The Marketing Book Podcast, where he interviews authors every week about the latest in modern marketing and sales.

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