Like professional sports, business is a never-ending struggle for one-upmanship. It doesn’t really matter if you have:
- A first mover advantage or huge head start
- Plenty of resources and a large budget
- The best product or team in the world
Success (and profits) will always attract attention. Rivals will inevitably muscle in on your territory. And this assumes you’re starting out on top.
For most businesses, that isn’t the case. They often find themselves entering pre-existing markets that are already filled with plenty of other players. As such, finding a niche or defendable position is extremely difficult.
Business Lessons Borrowed from Baseball’s Winningest Franchise
Gaining a competitive advantage is tough, especially for startups. But if you use the right strategies, it’s possible to carve out a significant advantage and stay ahead of the competition.
Many of the tips below are borrowed from the New York Yankees, a baseball franchise that is both a professional sports team and one of the most successful businesses in the world.
At the time of this writing, the 2018 World Series participants hadn’t been determined — and there’s no guarantee the Yankees would make the final cut. But over the club’s 104-year history, the organization has racked up:
- More than 50 former Yankees players inducted to the Hall of Fame
- 27 world championships
- 40 American League pennants
So, if you’re looking for ways to “strike out” the competition, the Yankees can offer plenty of inspiration.
Note that none of these tips are product-specific, making them applicable to all businesses — whether you sell:
- Health Care
The tips below have more to do with building strong brands that attract customers and fans.
1. Define your brand
Most entrepreneurs launch with a great product or service in mind. However, people don’t buy “things” — they buy emotions and lifestyles.
Case in point: Professional baseball is almost nonexistent outside of North America, Japan and a handful of Caribbean countries. Yet, the iconic Yankees cap is famous the world over — generating windfall profits for the team.
Hip-hop culture is partially to thank for this, but the fashion trend wouldn’t have spread if the Yankees hadn’t firmly established themselves as a hip, successful and cool brand.
Before you dive into prototyping your hot new idea, take some time to decide what values you want to be associated with. If you can’t or won’t, the market will do it for you.
2. Focus on consistency
The Yankees’ uniform hasn’t changed much over the last century. The team wears pinstripes at home and gray uniforms for away games. Unlike most ball clubs, these uniforms don’t display last names on the back.
As such, the Yankees have an unmistakable look. The consistency of their appearance makes the underlying brand familiar, comfortable and trustworthy — even among those who hate the Yankees.
The same is true of:
- UPS’s brown trucks and uniforms
- Coca-Cola signature red cans
- Apple’s clean, minimalistic design
The main takeaway is that you should resist the temptation to completely overhaul your brand’s look. Once you find something that works, stick with it.
3. Green your operations
The carbon footprint of the average baseball stadium is enormous — once you factor in all materials, electricity, food, trash and ongoing lawn maintenance.
That hasn’t stopped the Yankees from greening their operations. In recent years, the franchise has introduced a number of environmental initiatives, including:
- LED lighting
- Smart construction
There’s even been efforts to improve public transit so that New Yorkers don’t have to drive to Yankee Stadium.
Not everyone notices or cares about these green improvements, but for those who do notice and care, this sustainability push makes a big difference. That’s because customers increasingly prefer supporting environmentally responsible companies.
So, if you’re wondering how to improve your company’s image, you should consider greening your operations. Doing so not only saves you money, but it can help attract more customers as well.
For tips on getting started, check out these go green strategies here.
4. Pay for quality
With a market valuation of $3.4 billion, the Yankees can easily afford to buy the best:
- Support staff
This is a structural advantage that few ball clubs can match. It’s also one of the reasons why so many people dislike the Yankees. There’s even a famous musical about it.
But if you’re like most small business owners, you’re probably working with an extremely limited budget. So how can you possibly afford to buy the best of the best?
If you’re still focused on owning things, you’re out of luck. In addition to acquisition costs, you also have to factor ongoing expenses such as maintenance and repairs.
If you switch your focus from “ownership” to “access,” a whole new world of possibilities opens up. With the new sharing economy, every startup can now enjoy unlimited access to the highest quality tools, resources and infrastructure.
- Instead of buying on-site servers and expensive storage solutions, move your operations to the cloud.
- Instead of hiring full-time employees, tap into a global pool of virtual assistants and part-time freelancers.
- Instead of purchasing furniture and equipment, explore long-term leasing or rental arrangements.
Want Other Tips on How to Improve Your Company’s Image?
Building strong brands takes a lot of work, which is why few businesses invest the time and effort required to improve company image.
This can work to your advantage.
If the goal is to improve the brand value of your company, consider implementing some of these time-tested strategies developed by the world’s most successful baseball franchise.