When you start a business, it’s likely because it’s something you are passionate about. That’s fantastic. And then you get to the point where you start working on building your dream business. One of the essential things to identify in this stage is your competitive advantage.
When I first start working with a client, I love to ask them this question: “What sets your product or service apart from your competitors?” While the responses typically vary, the reality is that few truly know what sets them apart from the crowd.
Typically, the responses I see are:
These are not what sets you apart from your competitor. And, likely, these are also the same things your competitors are saying about their services. If you think about it, these are really qualifications and, in most cases, they are widely considered the bare minimum industry standards.
Would you choose to work with someone who isn’t knowledgeable? Or doesn’t have experience? Probably not. Would you choose someone who isn’t priced competitively or doesn’t offer excellent customer service? I doubt it.
The other thing to remember about customer service is that everyone claims they have great customer service. Not everyone does, but everyone says they do.
More importantly, the reality is that all of these things reflect your product or service as a commodity. It is not in your best interest to allow the market to commoditize your business.
The question you should really be asking is, “What is your competitive advantage?” In other words, what is it that makes you unique? What is it about your product or service that makes it significantly better than your top competitor? What is it that makes your prospective customer’s decision to choose you a no-brainer?
Unfortunately, many don’t think about it in these terms.
Here’s an example to help you. Imagine being a book editor. Now imagine that you are a book editor who is an actual speed-reader. Could you set yourself apart from your competitors if you could tell your prospective client that you can work through the material twice as fast as the average book editor, which would save the client both time and money?
In my opinion, that would be a pretty clear competitive advantage for a book editor.
So how do you go about discovering your competitive advantage? The process doesn’t have to be as challenging as you may think, but it does require analytic thought and real self-evaluation.
The first thing you’ll need to do is look at your strengths closely to determine whether they can be marketed in a manner that creates separation between you and your competitors. You need to be willing to brag about yourself a bit and let others brag about you too. If you are struggling with this, ask your trusted friends and family. Ask them what skills and strengths do you have? And then determine if these can be used as a competitive advantage.
If you are still struggling or want some help going through this process, or just want to talk, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to help you figure out your competitive advantage and strategic plan to market that.
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