Tactical training

Defence Force commanders have a four-phase overlay for their planning, and your business may benefit from their approach. BRENDAN LEWIS

Brendan Lewis

By Brendan Lewis

When your armoured vehicle is seriously bogged sideways in a creek bed, and the icy cold water is running across the top of the vehicle, but just below the drivers hatch, and you can feel the vehicle rocking, it’s easy to forget that everything is supposed to be simple (yes this has happened to me and I was looking for an excuse to slip it into a story).

In the army you are taught that there are four phases to warfare, and everything you do fits into one of those phases, even if it is unbogging the vehicle. Simple.

The four phases of warfare are recognised as:

  1. Advance.
  2. Attack.
  3. Defend.
  4. Withdraw (never retreat).

Commanders are trained to be effective in each phase and consider different issues when preparing orders for their troops. Interesting then to overlay this framework on marketing. In marketing, you could consider yourself to be:

Advancing: You’ve entered a new brand new market, where there doesn’t seem to be any competition as yet. You may not really be sure how big the market is or what price your customers will bear. You have the ability to be innovative with your sales model and your pricing. Lots of market research can help you target your offerings. Consider Foxtel. The only player initially in the pay TV market, experimenting heavily with offerings.

Attack: You’ve entered a market where there are competitors. Your energy is focused on developing and communicating your unique selling proposition.

You might well be a price taker. You really need to nail your customer segmentation and your value proposition. Take a look at superannuation. The main battle is between the industry funds and the retail funds. Both are advertising heavily to make you understand their value proposition. Industry funds have been advertising heavily on TV, while retail funds have been advertising heavily in newspapers and weekend supplements.

Defend: You’ve been able to make hay while the sun shines in your market, but others have noticed. Your energy is now focused on creating efficiencies to maintain your profit margins and campaigns that reward customer loyalty. Television is a classic example. Lots of cost cutting going on at the networks plus advertising about advertising on TV. They know they’re in trouble.

Withdraw: You’ve decided to exit a market. Your energy is now focused on how to maximise revenues on the way out (not necessarily caring about whether you are upsetting customers). The tobacco industry of course is making a great earn as their market slowly dies. Computer Associates apparently used to buy software companies on the way out, and ramp up the cost of the support contracts.

Understanding exactly what you are doing in a market will help you focus your marketing spend and maximise your return.


Brendan Lewis is a serial technology entrepreneur having founded : Ideas Lighting, Carradale Media, Edion, Verve IT, The Churchill Club, Flinders Pacific and L2i Technology Advisory. He has set up businesses for others in Romania, Indonesia and Vietnam. Qualified in IT and Accounting, he has also spent time running an Advertising agency and as a Cavalry Officer with the Australian Army Reserve.

To read more Brendan Lewis blogs, click here.



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