Competitive Advantage

By Thomas Young

Customers buy from you because of a distinct advantage you bring to the table over your competition. It is important that you identify this advantage and build on it to grow your business. What do you do better than your competitors or peers? What is your unique selling proposition that will bring customers to you? If you can properly identify and develop your competitive advantage, you are almost assured sales and marketing success. Let’s take a closer look at the fundamentals of competitive advantage.

Value to Clients
Your competitive advantage should link directly to how you add value to your clients. The specific benefits your clients are pursuing should be found in your competitive advantage. This will help customers differentiate you from competitors and give them a reason to do business with you. It also builds trust as they realize you understand their needs. For example, you may be selling pizza delivery to customers in your area. The combination of price, service and product quality will establish your competitive advantage. If you cannot do any of these three things better than your competition, then your business of selling pizza will suffer. Imagine you found that there is a high demand for pineapple pizza not being met by your competitors. Offering pineapple pizza would become your competitive advantage, at least in the short-term. Seek out ways to improve your service or product and better meet your customers’ needs.

Marketing Plan
Your competitive advantage is an important part of your marketing plan and sales strategy. It is the core piece of value you bring to customers and your principle sales proposition. Your marketing plan should include a clearly written competitive advantage. This message should also be communicated in your sales presentations, marketing promotions and on your Web site. You might even make it a part of your mission statement. Inform people about the uniqueness of your business, and how you can meet their needs better than others with similar products or services.

Competitive Analysis
An important step is a complete analysis of the competition. Who is the competition? How can your company gain a competitive edge? Has the competition been researched? If the competition has been researched, what are the results of that research? Look at your competitors and your common target market. How can you provide something to this target market your competitors missed or cannot provide? Gather this competitive intelligence and make the changes needed to better meet client needs. Those changes may include pricing, market position, distribution, and product or promotional modifications to name a few.

Listen to customers and develop them into a source of competitive intelligence. Customers will generally tell what they like and do not like about your competition. These comments are incredibly valuable clues that help you better develop a competitive advantage. It is perfectly legal and ethical to gather competitive data. Most of this information can be gathered directly from the Internet and your competitors’ Web sites. In fact, according to Sales and Marketing Management magazine, the number one use of the Web by business managers is competitive intelligence. In developing your Web site, review your competitors’ sites and find ways to improve your site from a customer’s perspective.

New Markets
The development of a competitive advantage and your competitor research may very well lead to the discovery of new markets for your products and services. This may be critical to grow and develop your business. It also gives you a better understanding of how you compete in your current markets.

The Ultimate Competitive Advantage
Relationships built on trust are probably the most powerful competitive advantage you can develop with customers. Even if your product or service is indistinguishable from your competition, your relationships with customers can set you apart. This is becoming more important in today’s competitive environment as prices equalize among competitors and products become more alike. In service-based industries the relationship and quality of work are keys to winning a competitive advantage.

Put energy, time and money into clearly understanding and communicating your competitive advantage, it will help you rise to the top in your markets.

Tom Young, MBA is president of Sales Training Plus, a sales training and marketing consulting firm helping companies increase revenues. He can be reached at 719-481-4040, or via e-mail at  [email protected].