An intriguing debate erupted in a meeting last week and I’d be interested to hear any other views.

I was talking to two astute entrepreneurs who are poised on the brink of starting a new company, having identified a seemingly lucrative, untapped mass-market opportunity …

Understandably, they’re loath to alert any potential competitors to the business idea—particularly large, established firms who could swoop in with fatter marketing budgets .

At the same time, they clearly need a big marketing programme to get as many potential customers as possible excited about their new product if they’re to succeed.

Sure, operating silently, under the cover of darkness, would help them to keep their idea from competitors, while saving them from having to shell out on marketing. But it’s an equally effective way to ensure no customers.  And no customers = no business.

It might be different were they catering for a niche customer base that can be neatly fenced off from their potential competitors. Then they could run a laser-focused marketing campaign targeting the former and not the latter. It could be different were this a product they could patent.  Neither is the case.

It remains a tricky marketing dilemma with, I think, no fool-proof solution.

The best way forward, I suggested, is to act boldly and quickly. Promote the business as actively and broadly as possible to become seen as the market authority. Run the business well. Deliver the product to the highest quality standard. Listen to customer feedback and keep on improving. Take advantage of all the energy and agility that come from being new and small. And tackle competitors with confidence and courage when they pile in—which they surely will if the opportunity is as good as it sounds.

The only viable alternative I can see is not to set up the business at all, and forever wonder what might have happened. Can anyone else see another way?

I hope they take the bold approach and give it their best shot.

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