How to realise and leverage your competitive advantage

Promote your strengths and competitive advantage with respect to product quality, price, promotion, location and distribution. This growth play typically involves investment in initiatives like advertising, PR, email campaigns and social media.

Any business, irrespective of size or industry, needs a competitive advantage to stand out from the crowd. Many strive for it, but few truly understand what it is, how to achieve it and how to maintain it.

The easiest way to realise your competitive advantage is to ask yourself: what differentiates you from everybody else? And, why should customers choose your products/services and your business over the competition?

The idea here is to define your uniqueness. Look at what you’re best at and describe why. For example, a wholesale food distribution business might describe itself as follows:

  • What we’re best at: streamlining distribution systems and optimising supply chain
  • Why: because we continue to innovate and push the boundaries of technology to deliver on our clients’ changing needs – on time, every time

Once you can state your competitive advantage succinctly, the next step is to compare it to your competitors and see if there is enough of a difference for consumers to immediately choose your business over others.

If there isn’t or if you want to get a bigger jump on the competition, here are a few strategies to consider straight away.

1. Differentiation

This is the key to setting yourself apart from the pack. Low cost can be one of your differentiating factors but there are other marketable attributes that can be used. It’s all about assessing your customers’ needs and behaviours to understand what they consider important and valuable. Then, offer products or services tailored to their needs.

2. Specialisation

Start by selecting a market niche where customers have distinctive preferences or requirements they want to be met. This can be defined by geographic location or by specialised product requirements, such as an environmentally friendly paint versus a traditional chemical-based paint.

Specialisation is particularly attractive when the market segment you operate in is large enough to be profitable and has good growth potential. Serving a defined market niche works well if your business doesn’t have the resources yet to play in the larger market.

3. Profile building

Adopting this strategy is for when you have built the foundations for growth. It means raising your profile in the market to your target customers so you are on their radar. Promote your strengths and advantages with respect to product quality, price, promotion, location and distribution. This growth play typically involves investment in initiatives like advertising, PR, email campaigns and social media.

If you’ve gained a competitive advantage at this point, you still have a way to go. Think about how to maintain your advantage. Constantly ask questions about the financial and operational health of your business and look for ways to continuously improve.

It all comes down to being the best at what you do. Whether that means offering the best product or service at the best price, and with the easiest access and best customer service, the most successful businesses today have found a way to differentiate themselves from the competition.

Stephen Canning, CEO, JCurve

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