Cannibalize Your Own Products, Because Your Competitors MIghty Hungry Too

In a former life I was Vice President at a company in Japan that among other things taught expensive classes. Very profitable classes. We also put out books on the same subjects. Very good books that showed our philosophy, and that had a very successful track record.

I started making plans to showcase the books, and get them into as many hands as possible. What better way to get our name out, and create subsequent interest in our lucrative classes?

My partner was worried. “But we’ll cannibalize our class sales. The books are so good that people won’t feel they need the classes.”

We were worried about a $20 book cannibalizing sales from our $3,000 class. We’re the only company in the world who wanted the class to continue, and if we were worried that the books might give people enough to not want to take the classes, what did that say about our confidence in the classes?

How long is that $3,000 class going to last, do you think? What kind of opportunity was there for our (well-entrenched) competitors? They could teach a similar class for, say, $1,000 and look great by comparison. Or make an even nicer book than ours and charge $45 and beat us on that front too.

Very few businesses come up with products or services that can last forever. You need to be more ruthless than your competitors in examining your products and services. If you come up with something that threatens to tank some of your other products – charge forward full steam, and just be glad that you’re the one who came up with something much better.

If you don’t compete with yourself, you’ll be just about the only one who doesn’t.