The Annihilation Strategy

"The principles of war are the same as those of a siege. Fire must be concentrated at one point."

One of the core values of eBoost Consulting is "fair". This applies to our team and our clients. It does not apply to our clients’ competitors. This article is not about fair. It’s about winning.

War is a perfect corollary, not simply of winning, but specifically of "how to win". At one time, the key to war was mysticism. The mystic aspect of war flourished for many years because the risk of trying new things was too high and the boundaries of competition were limited. Thus people assumed that traditional military strategies - small armies, national soldiers, mercenaries - were forever relevant, forever the best way to do things, despite the changes in combative landscape.

Levee en Masse

Things changed during The Napoleonic Wars, which Napoleon made his personal showcase. He implemented the levee en masse (literally translated as "mass uprising") which leveraged and utilized the sheer volume of people (not just soldiers and mercenaries). The philosophy behind it is that the nation understand itself as a community of all people, so its defense (and offense) was assumed to be a responsibility of all. For all hyperbole, the levee en masse was not popular but the effort was sufficient to turn the tide of the French Revolutionary Wars. Similarly, its effective is strong enough for us to have implemented its principles in marketing campaigns.

The Annihilation Strategy is an all out assault on one focal point. It is one of the most neglected strategies of an executive’s repertoire which is a shame. It works and is brutally effective. The key is to zone in on one weakness in one competitor. Once identified, marketing (customer-facing) is implemented from all functions of an organization (strategy, marketing, customer service, product development) to draw light to the intrinsic deficiency of the competitor. In essence, you highlight their weakness, exploit it, and create a gap so large and so fast that they have no time to catch up. Typically, behavioral psychology shows that the competitor will tend to over- or under-react. In the former, they tend to make their own mistakes (they aren’t prepared to respond from all functions; errors will be made). In the latter, it’s a game of catch me if you can. And they can’t.

Principles

When should you apply the annihilation strategy? Should you? As always, it depends. It depends on timing, your capabilities, your competitive position, market dynamics and industry dynamics. Just know that he annihilation strategy has its time and place. Obviously, it is fatal for a company to employ it without the capabilities and culture to act and react decisively and creatively. What works here is the balance of five principles:

  1. 1. Speed - This is a high-speed play. Decisions are made in real-time from functional managers.
  2. 2. Maneuver - Integration of all functions to form one company voice is imperative.
  3. 3. Surprise - The best time to capture the flag is when the market and industry are slow-moving.
  4. 4. Offensive - Offense is the best defense.
  5. 5. Maintaining the initiative - Have a succinct aim. Stick to it. Run every decision by its marker.

It is imperative to create relentless pressure on your competitors from all sides and close off their access to the outside world. As you sense their weakening resolve, crush their willpower by turning up the heat. Typically, a competitor can’t take it and will remove themselves from the kitchen.

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