Are you familiar with an economic theory called the efficient-market hypothesis?

There’s no need to get too deep into the weeds of it here, but suffice to say that, according to the efficient-market hypothesis, all of us have access to more or less the same information with regard to the stock market; theoretically, over a long period of time, a monkey throwing darts at the stock page could perform just as well as any human investor. (Of course, this is a simplification, and there are plenty of exceptions to the rule… people who have insider information, etc.)

I’ve thought a lot about this concept with regard to the field of marketing and entrepreneurship, which is where I’ve now spent the majority of my career. I believe that there’s something similar to the efficient-market hypothesis in play in the marketing world.

A Level Playing Field

Just as we all have access to the same basic stock information, marketing teams all have access to the same basic information about advertising, social media marketing, SEO, PPC… you name it. If you’d like to read up on any one of these topics, it’s easy enough to do so; a quick Google search will provide you with guidelines and best practices from thought leaders and marketing standard bearers. From a tactical perspective, there really are very few secrets. You can read and educate yourself about any topic, working with the same basic information as your competitors.

What this means is that creating an advantage, from a marketing standpoint, usually isn’t about you knowing a tactic or a channel that nobody else knows about. It’s highly unlikely that you’re going to stumble across some marketing approach that nobody else is aware of; even if you do, others will discover it soon enough. The chances of gaining an advantage in this way are slim, and any advantage you do gain won’t last long.

And it’s not just a matter of all of us having access to the same knowledge. Resources and opportunities have become similarly democratized. Maybe it wasn’t so decades ago, when only a few successful companies had the means to advertise on network TV. In today’s world, however, marketing teams share access to the same ad networks. They can easily hire freelance content writers or SEO consultants. Resources are readily available, and the playing field has become almost completely flattened.

All of this is just to say that gaining a competitive advantage, from a tactical marketing standpoint, probably won’t happen because you’re doing something that no one else is doing. It’s more likely to happen because you beat your competitors from an efficiency standpoint; because you find a cheaper way to acquire customers.

Better and Cheaper

In a lot of ways, what distinguishes a great marketing division is the extent to which it can reveal and eliminate waste. Company A and Company B may have the same tactics, the same channels, the same resources, the same basic approach to acquiring customers… but if Company A is spending twice as much to do it, it’s clear which company has the healthier bottom line and who will ultimately dominate the space in terms of market share.

This is why so many high-achieving companies emphasize the lean-agile framework; it’s harder than ever to innovate new methods of sales and marketing, but with the right efficiency standards and continuous improvement initiatives, you can find ways to reduce your costs.

This is also where having the right metrics and analytics is so important: Quickly discovering what isn’t working, and being able to pivot, can be as much a competitive advantage as anything else.

If you’re looking for new ways to beat the competition, my advice would be simple: Beat them on customer acquisition cost. That’s something the Lenses and Levers team can assist you with. If you’d like to chat about any of this, reach out at your convenience.