Creating a Competitive Advantage for your Business

by : Linda Pollitt

The first step in defining your own place within the market place is to understand clearly what you are providing to your customers. This may sound obvious but it is surprising how often business owners remain quite hazy about what they are offering. You should be able to write out a short, clear list of the services or products you provide. If you cannot do so, it suggests that further clarification is required.

In terms of creating your competitive advantage your description should go far beyond this basic list of products/services. It must also include the way you do business, and what business benefits your customers derive from your products or services, and from doing business with you. What are you really selling?

I once heard a story about a mattress manufacturer who sought help from a respected PR man. At their first meeting, the publicist asked, "What do you sell?" The bedmaker replied "Why, I sell mattresses, of course." Shaking his head, the other retorted, "No, you don't. You sell sweet dreams and good sex."

Michael Levine, Guerrilla P.R.

Under normal circumstances competitive advantage grows in direct relation to the number of things you can offer that your competitors cannot. Good research will tell you where the opportunities are to increase your competitive advantage. Develop your business by emphasising your strengths, in terms the customer/client can appreciate.

Traditionally, in sales and marketing, this perspective is referred to as translating features into benefits. The easiest way to translate a feature into a benefit is to add the prompt 'which means that...'. For example, if a strong feature of a business is that it has 24-hour opening, this feature would translate into something like: "We're open 24 hours (the feature) which means that you can get what you need when you need it - day or night." (the benefit). Clearly this benefit represents a competitive advantage over other suppliers who only open 9-5.

The important thing is to understand your services and proposition in terms that your customer will recognise as being relevant and beneficial to them.

Most businesses have a very poor understanding of what their customers value most in the relationship, so ensure you discover this in the research stage, and reflect this in your marketing strategy.

Customers usually value the following benefits higher than all others:

- making money

-saving money

-saving time.

From the Business Team at ; offering a range of unique development programmes for small businesses.