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Gini Dietrich

Be the Leader In Your Industry: Blaze the Trail

By: Gini Dietrich | August 29, 2011 | 
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Steve Jobs resigned last week. This is likely not news to you. But what is interesting is it likely will cripple the consumer electronics industry.

Spending quite a bit of time on the speaking circuit, I constantly hear from leaders that they’re afraid to use the web for business reasons because they don’t want the competition to know what they’re doing.

A Page from the Apple Book

The consumer electronics industry is built around copying the successful products that Apple produces.

When the iPhone came out, there were copycat touch-screen phones on the market within months. Apple blazed the trail.

The iPad created a tablet category that didn’t exist two years ago and now every mobile company on earth is building one. Apple blazed the trail.

Amazon, Google, and BlackBerry now have app stores. Apple blazed the trail.

Microsoft opened 11 retail stores this year. Apple blazed the trail.

Blaze the Trail

Apple also is the most wealthy company in the United States. They have more cash than our government. And they blaze the trail for their competitors.

They aren’t scared of the competition figuring out how they do things. They blaze the trail.

Read what Om Malik says on his blog, GigaOm:

If you want to change something, you have to be patient and take the long view. If Apple and Steve’s incredible comeback teaches us something, it’s that when you are right and the world doesn’t see it that way, you just have to be patient and wait for the world to change its mind.

Today, we are living in a world that’s about taking short-term decisions: CEOs who pray to at the altar of the devil called quarterly earnings, companies that react to rivals, politicians who are only worried about the coming election cycle and leaders who are in for the near-term gain.

Taking the long view is hard work, especially in today’s world. Letting our competition peek into our minds, our companies, and our R&D is scary.

Wouldn’t you rather blaze the trail than try to keep up?

But How?

Last week I quoted Jeff Jarvis and how he thinks we’re moving to a jobless future.

A future without jobs because, as leaders, we’re waiting for the economy to rebound so we can fill spots that have been vacated in the past three years.

A future without jobs because, as leaders, we’re afraid participating on the web is going to give our secrets to our competitors.

A future without jobs because, as leaders, we’re afraid to blaze the trail. We’re afraid of doing things differently. We fear change.

So buck up! The only way we’re going to help the economy rebound is to take a page from the Apple book … and learn from Steve Jobs.

Don’t be afraid to let the competition know what you’re doing. You’ll be looking forward and they’ll be scrambling to keep up. Blaze the trail.

This first ran as my weekly column in Crain’s Chicago Business.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger here at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. She is the co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is available now.

150 comments
Leon
Leon

G'Day Gini,

The success of Apple is yet further grist for the Ries and Trout mill. Be First! Most people think that means be the first product. That can be useful. But what Al and Jack said back in 1981 was "be first in the prospect's mind." With Apple, that goes right back to the Mac.

Earlier this year, the Ries and Trout book, "Positioning, The Battle for The Mind," was voted Best Marketing Book Ever by the readers of "Advertising Age." The book was first published in 1981, thirty years ago. "Positioning" wasn't the first book to address the so called mental aspects of marketing.

But it was the first to attract major public attention and support.

As Al and Jack said in 1981, "Marketing occurs in the mind."

That's one of the many things that Steve Jobs understands better than most.

And I reckon he had lots of fun too.

Regards

Leon

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

It's funny you should bring this up. If you didn't see Mark Schaefer's post from the other day about the End of Marketing as We KNow It, he laments the shortened product development cycle and lists some of the product release gaffes in the tech industry... I was thinking about it and then I read this, and I realized.... that's because everyone is rushing, stumbling over there feet trying to be first to copy Apple.

Tinu
Tinu

"They aren’t scared of the competition figuring out how they do things. They blaze the trail." So many people said this when blogging first became popular, and then whined later that they wish the blog/YT channel/FB page they started six years later wasn't so far behind the curve. If you're too afraid to fail to take action, you're not qualified to lead in my book.

feliciahudson
feliciahudson

Simply put: Pure inspiration, Gini! Great post for a Monday!

barryrsilver
barryrsilver

G,

A wonderful gentleman, Chad Coe, shared this advice with me: You project energy when you speak about projects that excite you, so you have to lead with that. Don't worry if someone co-opts your idea, it's your vision that makes the project zing. I received a lifetime of learning in the 1/2 hour I spent with him. And may I add to his wisdom: Go ahead and steal my idea. I'll already be bringing my next idea to market. Companies (leaders?) that react in fear of competition have already lost. Leaders relish competition.

sydcon_mktg
sydcon_mktg

Truth is - if your competitors know what your doing, chances are so do A LOT of other people, which is excellent for your business! Stop hiding, as @ginidietrich said, Blaze the Trail and dont be afraid to let others know about the great things you do!

I have heard it said that "copying is the sincerest form of compliment!"

Soulati | Hybrid PR
Soulati | Hybrid PR

I'm scrolling to find the comment where @ginidietrich calls me a dork. I can't find it.

So, I'll just say, Gin Blossom, you may only call me a dork in French. That could possibly be "dorquette," but I leave you to your own linguistics. Merci.

Marcus_Sheridan
Marcus_Sheridan

You already know how I feel about the competition Gini--- Forget 'em and do your thing. Fear no one. Concern yourself with customers and customers alone. Give them everything and more.

Marcus

rustyspeidel
rustyspeidel

The country has succumbed to some pretty big corporations in just about every facet of life--it's hard to drive across the country and not think that every town is the same because of all the corporate fast food, gas, etc that litters the highway. It's the same with just about every industry--the focus on systems, repeatability, cost reductions, and leverage has even made it a crime to store corn seeds for next season, thanks to Monsanto. It's hard to get psyched to truly innovate. BUT...

Take a cue from social media and the music business. It IS possible to just bypass all that BS and make something truly good. Focus on quality, solving a legit problem in a new way, and delivering it directly. Remove friction from the process. Be transparent and take pre-order commitments. Consider co-developing solutions with clients, rather than trying to own it all yourself. Solicit your customer's inputs, $$, and, support and then give them what they want--you know, like the old days when we actually cared. I think we'd all be amazed at what might happen.

JayDolan
JayDolan

I'm already looking forward to a future without social media. It's pretty awesome.

janbeery
janbeery

Well put Gini. Being a trail blazer is definitely taking a strong confident position. If you think your competition doesn't know what you're doing, you'll be surprised. I learned this all too well in manufacturing.

Better off to Lead then to play catch up.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Leon I think he absolutely had tons of fun. And, if I were him, I'd have had fun knowing I was right, while everyone discounted me...only to prove them wrong later. I love that kind of story!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Lisa Gerber Yep - and it's going to be interesting to watch and see what happens. My mom thinks the Apple age of technology will be like the renaissance period for painters. We won't see it again.

Tinu
Tinu

They probably already know what you're doing if you're doing it right @sydcon_mktg - and you're right about copying. When was the last time you heard someone say "that sucked so much - let's do the exact same thing!"

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@sydcon_mktg LOL! Unless they're copying something that really is irritating...like your outfit.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@rustyspeidel It's funny - @kmueller62 and I had this conversation the other day. He thinks local (and I agree) is coming back. And, to your point, it's possible to bypass the BS and do something. Just do it.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@janbeery Kind of like my Avis/Hertz story. Avis wasn't paying attention and Hertz was. Guess who won?

sydcon_mktg
sydcon_mktg

@Tinu You are so right! Part of business is being aware of your competitors (if you have your head in the sand you will fail!).

One thing we ask prospective clients is what are your competitors doing?

rustyspeidel
rustyspeidel

@ginidietrich@kmueller62 It's coming back just like khaki pants and the business suit and izod shirts, baby!!

seriously, i agree. ignore the large impediments and just solve it. whatever it is.

KenMueller
KenMueller

@ginidietrich@rustyspeidel I wish i had the time to sit down and really study the cycles from small to large to small to large. I really believe we are on a move to small now. At least in our area we are. Though I'm also seeing an interesting symbiosis between small and large, and they can co-exist.

JayDolan
JayDolan

@geoffliving I never stop dreaming. It's nice to have dreams that aren't interrupted by emails, texts, Facebook messages, tweets....

KenMueller
KenMueller

@rustyspeidel@ginidietrich hmm. not up here. two kids in college and neither are seeing it. and not the very preppy college a block away (F&M). Maybe we're immune.

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