When a military unit goes into a combat situation and meets the enemy there are certain rules that soldiers are expected to follow. These rules are commonly called “rules of engagement.”

They dictate when and if you will engage the enemy and what level of engagement you will use.

These rules are not based on the enemy you are facing. Instead they reflect the philosophy and ethics of the United States.

The enemy may not adhere to any rules at all but our troops must abide by the rules of engagement or there can be serious consequences to those that don’t.

Business “Rules of Engagement”

In the business war there are also rules of engagement. These are the rules that dictate how you do your day-to-day business.

You have a certain ethical philosophy that is reflected throughout your business.

While your competitors, on the other hand, may not have any ethics at all and will use any tactic, ethical or unethical, to get the business.

Who’s The Target?

There are times when business owners will go toe to toe against each other but even if this is the case it’s usually the business that’s the target.

A competitor won’t bad mouth a business owner in their advertising but they have will have no reservation in lying about the business.

So what are the “rules of engagement” when the competition is out to get you?

First Be Sure You’re Right… Then Go Ahead.

These famous words from Davy Crockett will help. If your competitor is lying in their advertising about you that’s pretty cut and dried.

If you hear the rumor by word-of-mouth, that’s another story. When people pass on information they often tend to embellish the information a little in order to make it more titillating.

I would want to hear the information from more than one credible source before taking it at face value. Overreaction could escalate rather than deflate the dispute.

Can You Win The Battle Without Losing The War?

Can you win this battle adhering to your rules of engagement and not stooping to the oppositions? The answer is yes.

The first step is to assess what is being attacked. Is it the business in general or just certain products or services?

The most common attack is price. It’s easy for a competitor to lower their price and give the impression they are offering the same products and services for less.

In most cases there will be some type of additional or hidden charges that will surface down the road.

Most battle-hardened commanders will tell you that the best defense is a good offense.

Here Are Your Rules Of Engagement.

First never mention your competition by name in your advertising. Educate your customers.

For example, I make custom furniture and I use ABC glue exclusively. My competitor uses XYZ glue that is inferior.

If my advertising educates my customer about ABC glue I can discredit my competitor and never mention their name or products.

Next, Become An Expert

If there is information about your business or industry in a trade magazine or other source cut it out and send it to the newspapers or other media in your town.

Give them your name and contact information and tell them why this information is important to their readers.

Most likely they will use you as a source and you, not your competitor, will be perceived as the recognized expert by the newspaper.

Last but not least, position your business away from your competitor. Positioning is the perception in the customers mind that your business is the one they think of when certain words are mentioned.

If I asked you too name a soup company you’d probably say Campbell’s. But Progresso and Heinz also make soups. When you hear Heinz you probably thought of ketchup not soup.

What words or phrases make customers think of your business? Or, can you create some? What really sets you apart from your competitors?

Some Final Thoughts

As you can see there are ways of attacking your competitor and defending your position without compromising your honesty or ethical business practices.

It’s always better to be proactive than reactive but there are times when you have to go on both the offensive and the defensive.

Your “rules of engagement” will go a long way in achieving victory over your competitors. Just make sure you remember Davy Crockett's words, “First be sure you’re right... then go ahead.

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