Do less than your competitors to beat them - Trial and Eureka

Do less than your competitors to beat them

By Alp | Email Marketing

​I am obsessed with unconventional businesses.

Recently, that obsession has been focused on Basecamp.

Specifically, I’m consumed by how it became the market leader in project management software by constantly doing less than their competitors.

It pays to study the outlier, and understand WHY they can outperform the rest of the pack with such a large margin.

For example, how did Basecamp go from 45 customers in 2004 to 2,500,000 customers in 2017 in such a competitive market?

In their NYT bestselling book Rework, Basecamp’s founders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson talk about their strategy of “underdoing the competition”:


“Conventional wisdom says that to beat your competitors, you need to one-up them. If they have four features, you need five (or fifteen, or twenty-five). If they’re spending $20,000, you need to spend $30,000. (...)

This sort of one-upping mentality is a dead end. When you get suckered into an arms race, you wind up in a never-ending battle that costs you massive amounts of money, time, and drive. And it forces you to be constantly defensive, too. Defensive companies can’t think ahead; they can only think behind. They don’t lead; they follow.

So what do you do instead?

Do less than your competitors to beat them. Solve the simple problems and leave the hairy, difficult, nasty problems to the competition. Instead of one-upping, try one-downing. Instead of outdoing, try underdoing.

The bicycle world provides a great example. For years, major bicycle brands focused on the latest in high-tech equipment: mountain bikes with suspension and ultra strong disc brakes, or light-weight titanium road bikes with carbon-fiber everything. And it was assumed that bikes should have multiple gears: three, ten, or twenty-one.

But recently, fixed-gear bicycles have boomed in popularity, despite being as low-tech as you can get. These bikes have just one gear. Some models don’t have brakes. The advantage: They’re simpler, lighter, cheaper, and don’t require as much maintenance. (...)


That’s a seductive idea:

Find the ONE thing you want your product to become world-class in - and axe everything else.

This frees up a lot of resources, which actually allows you to become world-class at that one thing.

Then you aggressively market your contrarian ways:

“Don’t shy away from the fact that your product or service does less. Highlight it. Be proud of it. Sell it as aggressively as competitors sell their extensive feature lists.”

I want to do this with Swipe, Send… Sold! and I need your help.

What’s the ONE thing you want this product to become the world leader in?

What are all the features we can cut, so we can go all in on the one thing that matters most to you?

A few possibilities:

  • Axe the video tutorials and focus exclusively on written templates? (Here, the ONE thing would be: templates)
  • Cut back from 4 new templates to just 1 template a month - and go deep? For example, I could explain the psychology of why structuring the email in that way works. (One thing = depth)
  • An extreme: Remove the “prep worksheet”? Instead, just keep the template and give you 3 worked examples instead of 1? (One thing = worked examples)
  • Another extreme: Axe the “fill-in-the-blanks template”? Instead, make the prep exercises really step by step. Then give you worked examples of both the prep exercises and the finished emails? (One thing = exercises and questions to ask yourself before you sit down to write that particular email)
  • Something else?

I want us to make big bets on simplicity, clarity, ease-of-use, and honesty - just like Basecamp.

You and I, let’s put on our Einstein cap and figure this ONE thing out.

Because Trial & Eureka exists for YOU.

I create these products to help you solve your online marketing problems. So I want to bring you in on the product creation.

Hit reply and tell me what you think the ONE thing for Swipe, Send, Sold should be and why.

I read every response.