Sounds like a simple enough question, but finding the best answer can prove quite a challenge, as the Intelligent Ink team discovered at a breakfast seminar yesterday. Greg Bateman, from consulting firm, O’Connor Bateman, addressed a group of businesspeople on the topic of competitive advantage. Attendees were business leaders in a broad range of industries, from engineering and finance, to property and haircare.
When asked to explain to our neighbor what set us apart from other businesses in our field, most found it surprisingly difficult to enunciate. While we all feel that we know what our business offers inside-out, defining how we differentiate from our competitors proved a more complex task than expected.
A business’ competitive advantage is not always obvious, and some careful consideration should go into deciding what yours is. It may be based on convenience (an example of this is Four Square, with their catchy slogan: “How convenient!”), or perhaps superior quality products, environmental values, or a service offering that you can’t find elsewhere.
When business owners are asked to state their key points of difference, some common answers emerge, which sound great, but competitors are claiming exactly the same things. Therefore, it’s not really a point of difference at all! The most frequently stated points of difference include customer service, quality, trust and reputation, knowledge, consistency and innovation. However, for any of these reasons to be a true competitive advantage, you must go on to explain why you do it better than your competitors for, proving this by backing up your claim with action.
Deciding on the angle to take depends on drilling down to the key frustrations of your target customers. In order to provide a relevant product or service, everything you do should be focused around how you plan to solve these key frustrations. Your competitive advantage, then, should describe what makes your methods superior in doing so.
Once you’ve got your competitive advantage nailed, you should not only convey this to prospects in the sales process, but also reinforce it with your existing customers, encouraging them to advocate it. Because, as we are all aware by now, word-of-mouth is one of the most powerful forms of advertising.
Don’t get lulled into thinking your work is now done either, it is important to revisit your competitive advantage frequently, as it may need to be adapted over time, in reaction to competition, a changing business environment and new developments.
One major benefit of creating a strong competitive advantage is that it allows you to compete on a level other than price. We need to be not only competitive, but also intelligent, in business. It is beneficial to not only know, but also project, how you stand apart from your competitors, so you can charge a fair price for your offering.
Give us a call, if you’d like some help to either work out your specific competitive advantage or communicate it professionally.