May 19, 2020

Winning business the ethical way

Ascendant Resources
Chris Buncic
Bizclik Editor
3 min
Winning business the ethical way

A business that isn't consciously trying to win customers away from its competitors should perhaps question whether it's really serious about being in business.

Expanding your company's market share is what it's all about, and that means increasing your customer base by any ethical means possible.

And there's nothing unethical about trying to convince your competitors' customers that you can offer them a better product or service, along with the support system of those you have hired to back it up.

Some tactics are unethical

There are, of course, underhanded and unethical ways of targeting the competition's customers.

Would it be acceptable, for example, to try to recruit someone from the competition's sales force who could perhaps share some privileged insights about the customers his former employer sold to? Of course not.

And any business that pulls such a stunt deserves the almost inevitable payback down the road -- when the employee you stole from a competitor moves on to his next conquest offering your customer list as an enticement to hire him.

However, if you've built a better mousetrap than the one your competitor is selling, common sense dictates that you point that out to potential customers, including those who have always bought their mousetraps from your business rival in the past.

Read related articles in Business Review Canada

Make sure claims are valid

Here's where it gets a little tricky, both ethically and legally.

Don't make claims that your products or services are better than your competitor's unless such claims can be proven through objective testing. And never make negative claims about a competitor's product unless you're quite certain that those claims can withstand objective scrutiny.

As a general rule, bad-mouthing the competition is a bad idea, in much the same way that negative campaigning is an unsound political strategy. But pointing out the ways in which your product or service is demonstrably superior to those of your competitors is fair game.

For those readers who might have skipped over that last sentence a bit quickly, allow me to elaborate. Webster's defines "demonstrably" as "able to be proven or shown, possible to demonstrate."

Wishing won't make it so

In other words, simply saying it doesn't make it so.

You should be able to prove how your product fulfills its purpose more efficiently and/or effectively than other such products on the market.

If you're making claims you can't back up, you're likely to incur the wrath of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). And it sure isn't going to sit well with your competitors either.

In short, you'll probably fare best if you base your marketing campaign on the positive attributes of your product or service, along with an overview of your company's system of support -- both customer service and technical support.

Everyone wants a better deal

It's disingenuous to think that your marketing campaign is only going to reach those potential customers who have not already found a source for the product or service you're selling.

Any practical and budget-minded consumer in the market for the type of goods you produce is going to be constantly on the lookout for improved products, better delivery, more responsive customer service, and round-the-clock technical support. Even if he has heretofore been buying from a competitor of yours, he's likely to come knocking at your door if he can be convinced you're offering a better deal.

If a competitor's customer approaches you to learn more about what you're selling and how it might benefit him to start buying from your company, you can help to clinch the deal by offering him a sweet introductory discount or other incentive to win the business.


About the author

Jay Fremont is a freelance author who writes extensively about small business, corporate strategy, social media, and the best-paying bachelor degree jobs

Share article

Jun 13, 2021

Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl

Kate Birch
5 min
Former CMO for IBM Americas Maria Bartolome Winans was recently named CMO for Kyndryl. Maria talks about her new role and her leadership style

Former Chief Marketing Officer for IBM Americas, and an IBM veteran of more than 25 years, Maria Bartolome Winans was recently named CMO for Kyndryl.

Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.

With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.

You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?

I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.

We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.

What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?

I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.

The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.

I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.

What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?

When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.

What does success look like to you?

I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.

What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?

I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.

Share article