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4 Keys to Market Penetration and the Art of War


Sun Tzu was a Chinese military general, strategist and philosopher who lived between 544-496 BC. His book ‘The Art of War’ has become one of the most valuable guides on marketing penetration tactics in modern times. Sun Tzu teaches us to make the most of our resources while causing our competitors to expend theirs unwisely. He also stresses the necessity for confidentiality and swiftness of execution when seeking to gain market share. Following are keys to success in market penetration:


  1. Employ Sound Maneuvers to Surpass the Competition – When striving to increase market share resistance from competitors must be dealt with effectively. Understanding the competition’s strengths and weaknesses will allow even superior forces to be overcome.
    • “If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is temperamental, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them” … Sun Tzu
    • “Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected” … Sun Tzu
  2. Exploit the Competition’s Perception of You – If a competitor sees you as an immediate threat, appear disinterested. If the competitor doesn’t recognize your ability to challenge, portray yourself otherwise. This will cause misappropriation of resources thus weakening your opponent.
    • “If you are near the enemy, make him believe you are far from him. If you are far from the enemy, make him believe you are near”… Sun Tzu
    • “All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near” … Sun Tzu
  3. Utilize Your Resources Based on Your Opponent’s Strength – If the odds are significantly in your favor focus marketing resources on the most significant markets the opposition depends on; if circumstances are slightly in your favor mount a focused direct effort; if the opposition is stronger diversify marketing efforts.
    • “It is the rule in war, if our forces are ten to the enemy’s one, to surround him; if five to one, to attack him; if twice as numerous, to divide our army into two” … Sun Tzu
  4. Success Relies on Concealing Strategic Objectives and Weaknesses – When objectives and goals are kept confidential until the point of execution, the competition will be put on the defensive and forced to react. Masking or compensating for weaknesses while in the process of overcoming them will give the opposition no clues on where to attack.
    • “Hence that general is skillful in attack whose opponent does not know what to defend; and he is skillful in defense whose opponent does not know what to attack” … Sun Tzu
    • “Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected” … Sun Tzu
    • “Be extremely subtle even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate” … Sun Tzu

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