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Disruption Selling: Picking the Beaches for Invading the Incumbents’ Land



“The spot where we intend to fight must not be made known; for then the enemy will have to prepare against a possible attack at several different points; and his forces being thus distributed in many directions, the numbers we shall have to face at any given point will be proportionally few.”

Sun Tzu, The Art of War


When entering the Mainstream market, the Disruptor is confronted with the Incumbents’ overwhelming forces built over decades. Rather than stretching their resources across the entire target market they must concentrate on a limited number of market segments.


To use a picture here: Rather than deploying 500 troops across 50 beaches with 10 each they must concentrate them on 5 beaches with 100 each. This way the Disruptor can build local competitive superiority and establish beachheads from where to attack the Incumbents’ main positions.


Picking the beaches represents a one-way-door decision: Undoing it comes at a high price as the Incumbents will exploit your failure and, now that they learned about your plan, block that beach for some time. It also damages the Disruptor’s overall credibility in the ecosystem, especially when partners joined in the attempt with own recourses.


Approaching only a limited number of market segments allows for a more detailed analysis of the competitive landscape, deeper investigation of customers’ needs and better understanding of the existing ecosystem. Concentrating resources on selected segments results in more focused value propositions and increased customer intimacy overcompensating the Incumbents’ track record and relationships.


The Disruptor’s leadership makes this conscious one-way-door decision by defining Customer Portfolios and assigning them to Portfolio Teams who then own the decision on how and when to carry out the attack.


For more details refer to this Executive Summary.

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