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Finding Underserved Markets
By Mark McNeilly

Avoiding the opponent's strength is a key tenet of Sun Tzu's philosophy.

Avoiding the opponent's strength is a key tenet of Sun Tzu's philosophy. We have seen the result of the "attacking strength" approach when K-Mart tried to beat Wal-Mart at the low-cost game. K-Mart went bankrupt while Wal-Mart grew stronger and its stock price rose. So how can one avoid strength and find weaknesses?

Sun Tzu's Art of War states "That you may march a thousand li without wearying yourself is because you travel where there is no enemy.Go into emptiness, strike voids, bypass what he defends, hit him where he does not expect you."

Your company can "go into emptiness, strike voids, bypass what he defends" by creating offerings that attack niches in the market or address unserved markets.

CNN, ESPN and MTV were able to do this by riding the cable trend to create focused news and entertainment for segments of the population. While the major networks focused on attacking one another to gain a few points of market share, these new players avoided those battles to find unprotected market space. CNN targeted the unfilled needs of news-addicts, ESPN supplied round-the-clock sports for the fan-addict and MTV gave music fans the videos and songs they wanted to experience. Together these companies changed the face of television by hitting competitors where they were not expected.

In this industry is there room now to find new underserved markets?

Indeed there is. One only has to look at the success of Fox News. There exists a large portion of the viewing public that the established networks and CNN itself provided news with a liberal slant. Fox News exploited this opening by supplying news with a more balanced viewpoint (or more conservative viewpoint depending on your political leanings). With their "we report, you decide" mantra Fox News has now surpassed CNN in the cable ratings wars.

As these examples show, by utilizing creative strategies it is always possible to find underserved markets to supply.

Mark McNeilly brings Sun Tzu's strategic principles to life as the author of  Sun Tzu and the Art of Business; with TV and radio interviews and with seminar presentations. For more information visit

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