Apply Strength against Weakness: Maneuver by Indirect Strategy

History shows that rather than resign himself to a direct approach a Great Captain will take even the most hazardous indirect approach. He prefers to face any unfavorable condition rather than accept the risk of frustration inherent in a direct approach.

B. H. Liddell Hart

The central idea underlying the indirect approach is that you avoid a direct confrontation with competitors. So that, “rather than accept the risk of frustration inherent in a direct approach,” your strategy should circumvent your competitors’ strong points of resistance. At the same time, your aim is to serve the current and evolving needs of your customers.

This convergence, known as the two zones of activities, forms the operational focus by which you (1) devise competitive strategies that outthink, outmaneuver, and outperform rivals threatening to frustrate your efforts; and (2) establish ongoing customer relationships in markets that represent the best opportunity for profitable growth.

Zone one, competitive strategies, utilizes the strongest elements of your marketing and other organizational forces (your competitive advantage) against the weaknesses of your competitor. The resulting strategies make extensive use of (1) market intelligence to estimate the competitive situation, (2) a highly flexible organization or group to respond quickly to sudden threats from rivals, and (3) a competent leadership able to manage financial, human, and material resources to secure and defend a market position.

Zone two pinpoints selected markets and segments that are emerging, neglected, or poorly served. They should be the ones that represent your best opportunity to concentrate your efforts for maximum impact, without exhausting your resources. Consequently, these markets are the starting point and finishing point that precede and follow any actions; they form the epicenter of all your activities.

The direct and the indirect lead on to each other in turn. It is like moving in a circle—you never come to an end. Who can exhaust the possibilities of their combinations?

Sun Tzu

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