Doing what your competition won’t

I was a little taken back when I read the headline on “Subway beats McDonald’s to become top restaurant chain.” How could that be? I thought no one could beat McDonald’s. Intrigued, I followed the link.

Adam ShiflettBy Adam Shiflett, ADP Lightspeed – I was a little taken aback when I read the headline on “Subway beats McDonald’s to become top restaurant chain.” How could that be? I thought no one could beat McDonald’s. Intrigued, I followed the link.

The article clarified that Subway announced it had more franchised restaurant locations than McDonald’s worldwide (33,749 vs. 32,737). Wow, that’s a lot of fresh bread. What really caught my attention is how Subway says it was able to surpass other fast food chains:

“A lot of our growth has been in non-traditional spaces that our competitors might not touch,” Les Winograd, Subway spokesperson, said. “We have really unique ones, like on a riverboat in Germany, a church in Buffalo, car dealers, bowling alleys and casinos …”

What caught me was “spaces that our competitors might not touch.” Subway passed McDonald’s by doing things different. Things that the fast food giant felt were uncomfortable or not right.

So what does this have to do with you? Look around your business. A lot of times you do things because that is the way it’s always been done or that’s how everyone else does it. That is fine if you want to fit in with everyone else.

If you want “non-traditional” results – to beat your competition and maximize your business – you have to do things in “non-traditional” ways. You have to be the one that is willing to make the uncomfortable decision. That means risk, a scary word; but remember, when you take the right risk, it comes with reward.

Even though Subway was willing to be more flexible, it wasn’t willing to put a store in a place that wouldn’t get customers. They performed studies, looked at trends, watched traffic to find unique places that people would be hungry for a Subway sandwich. It takes more than a hunch to put a fast food restaurant in a church or a riverboat.

The same thing needs to happen for you to build the above average business you want. It does not make sense to do something different just for sake of it. Do it because it is meaningful to your customers and it is something you can do well.

The goal is to match customer preferences to your core competencies. That’s how companies win. FedEx did it when they revolutionized traditional package delivery with overnight service. Apple did it when they reinvented the traditional smart phone with the iPhone. Wal-Mart did it when they reengineered traditional distribution models.

So how do you decide what non-traditional thing to focus on? Here are some hints:

1.     Determine What Customers Want: Subway figured out that their customers were hungry in non-traditional fast food locations.

2.     Determine What You Can Do: Even though customers want something, it may not always be feasible. You need to evaluate your own strengths as a business and identify what you do well that others can’t or won’t do.

3.     Focus on it: Once you find what you do better, talk about it, create events around it and make it the most important thing at your dealership.

Things are just starting to unfreeze in the marine market. Customers are starting to come back. If you want them to come to you, you need to stand out. Be willing to be non-traditional. Do the things customers want, and what your competition won’t.

Adam Shiflett is marketing manager of ADP Lightspeed, a provider of dealer management solutions. For more information, visit

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One comment

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