Published On: April 15th, 2020By

Comparing ourselves to our competitors in order to figure out how best to one-up them is natural—it’s what drives us all in business. We feel threatened when our competitors do something different (especially if it appears to work) and we constantly obsess over what their next move may be. This line of thinking, however, leads us to follow in their tracks rather than forge our own path.

The most effective way to create distance from your competition is to set your sights on a new competitor—someone who operates in a completely different industry from your own. By trying to come up with ideas while putting yourself in their shoes, you’ll get an outsider’s perspective on your own industry.

Because the next big industry disrupter—for every single industry—doesn’t usually come from within the industry, it comes from an outsider.

And, most business leaders won’t see it coming.

That’s how Airbnb managed to blindside the hotel industry. The concept was a great new idea by two friends who did not work in hospitality.

The Proximity Paradox, by our Alex Varricchio and Kiirsten May, explores the idea of how to compete with those you admire. Here are three tips from that chapter.

1) Host a Cross-Industry Brainstorm

If you know marketing and creative professionals from different industries, invite them to get together to solve a business challenge. (Even with today’s social distancing rules, it’s an easy thing to do by video conference rather than in a boardroom.) This concept brings a variety of problem-solvers to the table, each with a unique perspective to the same challenge.

Here at UpHouse, we do this once a year to benefit a local non-profit organization. We gather marketers from a number of different industries to brainstorm new marketing ideas in support of our chosen organization.

Every person arrives with a different point of view and different brainstorming styles—the end result of which is new and innovative solutions to the marketing problem.

If you convene a cross-industry brainstorm, you’ll get focused attention on your challenge and dozens of viable ideas. If you are invited to participate in one, you’ll get a break from your work routine, discover different brainstorming styles, and maybe even pick up some new ideas to try in your own business.

2) Read Another Industry’s Trade Publication

Every industry has them and every one of them regularly publishes articles interviewing established and emerging players in the industries they represent. Pick an industry and take the time to read what is happening in their industry mags.

What are they doing to innovate? What trends are they watching? What technology are they adopting? How are they engaging customers?

You may have to stretch your imagination to make connections between their industry and yours so make sure you’re in the right headspace before you start. Again, with social distancing forcing many businesses to set up in home offices, the change in scenery and routine will help you think with a different mindset.

3) Interview a Marketer in a Different Industry

Our “Creative Crush” blog series does just that—taps into a well of fresh thinking that never runs dry.

Interviewing another marketer helps you discover proven strategies in other industries, and it helps you gain the confidence to implement them in your own company.

While it’s always nice to be able to offer to treat that someone to a cup of coffee, this strategy is also something that can easily be done by phone or video conference. It’s also something that many businesses and marketers likely have a little more time for these days.

Kiirsten is going to use the next few weeks to practice her own advice by taking on tip #2 and #3 while working from home and practicing social distancing. We’ll report back on her findings!

TheProximity Paradox: How To Create Distance from Business as Usual and Do Something Truly Innovative is available now.

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