Protect Your Turf by John Warrillow













Four ways to help your client protect their turf

John Warrillow is the founder of The Sellability Score, a tool business coaches use to help their clients understand what drives a company's value.

Warren Buffett famously invests in businesses that have what he calls a protective “moat” around them – one that inoculates them from competition and allows them to control their pricing.

Big companies lock out their competitors by out-slugging them in capital infrastructure investments, but smaller businesses have to be smarter about how they defend their turf. Here are four ways that you can help your client deepen and widen the protective moat around their business:



Is there a certification program your client could take to differentiate their business? A Canadian company that disposes of radioactive waste decided to get licensed by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. It was a lot of paperwork and training, but the certification process acts as a barrier against other people jumping into the market and competing.

Discuss with your client the possibility of certification or training that would make it more difficult for other companies to compete.


An army of defenders

Ecstatic customers act as defenders against other competitors entering your market, a factor that has enabled companies like Trader Joe’s to defend their market share in the bourgeois bohemian (bobo) market, despite a crowded market of stores hawking groceries. Work with your client to create strategies that will ensure great WOM from customers; word-of-mouth is still the best form of advertising.


Getting customers to integrate

Is there a way your client can integrate their product or service into their operations?

The basic switching costs of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software are virtually nil. Everyone from 37signals to Salesforce.com will give you a free trial to test their wares.

The real expenses associated with changing CRM software only come when a business starts to customize the software and integrate it into the way they work. Once a sales manager has trained his salespeople in creating a weekly sales funnel in a CRM platform, try to convince him to switch software.


Becoming a verb

Think back to the last time you looked for a recipe. You probably “googled” it. Part of Google’s competitive shield is that the company name has become a verb. Now every time someone refers to searching for something online, it reinforces the competitive position of a single company.

Is there a way your client could control the vocabulary people use to refer to their category or specialty?

Widening a company’s protective moat triggers a virtuous cycle: differentiation leads to having control over pricing, which allows for healthier margins, which in turn lead to greater profitability and the cash to further differentiate one’s offering.

If your client is wondering how differentiated their businesses is, they can take the

13-minute Sellability Score questionnaire and find out. Differentiation is one of the eight key drivers of sellability.



John Warrillow is the founder of The Sellability Score, a tool business coaches use to win clients and deepen their relationship with existing customers. John is the author of Built to Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You. Between 1997 and its acquisition by The Corporate Executive Board (NYSE: CEB) in 2008, John Warrillow led Warrillow & Co., an advisory firm providing marketing advice for reaching the Small & Medium Business (SMB) market segment to companies such as American Express, Apple, Bank of America, Dell, eBay, Google, IBM, Microsoft, RBC Royal Bank, Sprint, VISA, and Wells Fargo. John has been recognized by B2B Marketing as one of the top 10 Business-to-Business marketers in the United States.




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