How your competitive advantage can be stated clearly and simply.
What’s your competitive advantage in the market?
What distinguishes your organization from your competition?
What sustaining differential advantage do you have?
All of these questions try to get at the answer to the question “Why should I do business with your company and not one of your competitors?”
Let’s look at some of the more common expressions used by businesses to explain what they believe to be the advantage they have over everyone else:
- we have the best technology.
- we provide the best customer service.
- we deliver amazing customer experiences.
- we will exceed your expectations.
- we have highly trained staff.
- we offer the lowest prices.
- we are the market leader in providing CRM solutions.
- we’ve been in business since 1950.
- we’re here for you, we’ve got your back.
- we offer customized solutions.
- our products are of the best quality.
- we offer fast, reliable same day service.
These types of competitive claims have limited value to separate one organization from another because most organizations claim the same thing. If you’re in the communications business, for example, most of your competitors claim they have the ‘best’ network, provide the ‘most complete’ product and service portfolio or offer the ‘most enjoyable ‘ customer experience.
Why do most organizations waste their breath and make these types of claims?
For one simple reason: they look at the types of things others are saying AND THEY COPY THEM! Can you imagine benchmarking another company when it comes to declaring competitive advantage? Absurd to say the least but it happens all the time.
Uniqueness, innovation and creativity are MIA in leadership fulfilling this incredibly vital role.
There are 3 reactions I have when I hear these types of statements:
1. What are you saying? — the devil’s in the details.
What exactly is meant by ‘exceeding expectations’ and ‘we’ve got your back’?
Unless someone understands the intent of the statement it’s merely stratospheric clap-trap; a helium-filled aspiration with no substance. It’s worthless.
Now, if a claim with this type of intent said something like “We will always try and say YES! to what you ask of us” I would sit up and take notice.
Or if it said “We will always do more for you than what you ask” I would have pretty good clarity on what behaviour to expect from the organization saying it.
And then break your claim down into even more detail for more clarity for your customers and your employees. When you declare that you will ‘say YES!’, give examples so people will get a picture of what is intended. If you’re in the restaurant business you might be willing to give your customers something they want that is not on your regular menu.
The point is, your competitive claim must be granular as opposed to aspirational if it is to have any real meaning at all.
2. So what and who cares? — the question of relevance.
There are tons of competitive claims that promulgate a benefit that few are looking for (but the company thinks is cool), and there’s nothing as abysmal as claiming you’re great at something your target customers don’t care about.
This is the classic factory supply-push approach used by far too many businesses that simply want to flog their products and services to the masses with no specific individual in mind, emphasizing the features they have and the technologies they use.
These organizations hope that enough people will buy what they’re flogging and that the size of the ‘average’ customer group that goes for their claim is large enough to make their moves profitable.
A radio station in Vancouver declared they are ‘the only ones who provide traffic and weather every ten minutes on the ones’ even though their competitor only provides traffic information. ‘On the ones’ may be true, but it’s irrelevant given the option their customers have.
In addition, most claims address the general market — and the ‘average person’ — so it’s likely that it will resonate with some people and miss the mark with others. Why? Because it’s a supply-based claim and not a demand-driven one.
Learning points: make sure your competitive claim is based on what your target customers crave (link) and not what you supply.
3. Prove it! — the challenge of truth.
This is where the proverbial ‘rubber meets the road’ on your competitive advantage claim: it must pass the burden of truth.
Who owns the truth? If you really have a winner, go ask your target customers whether they actually believe it. Do you consistently ‘say YES!’ when someone orders an item not on your menu? They will tell you!
In addition, take a look at your operational processes, measurement systems and accountabilities. Do you have the ops processes in place to deliver on your competitive claim?
Are measurements being done on the various components to ensure the right hand-offs and deliverables are achieved?
And have accountabilities been established with the key owners in the organization to make the delivery systems a priority? If delivering on your competitive claim isn’t in the performance plans of key executives, it’s unlikely it will be treated as a priority and get done.
The ONLY Statement is the way to solve the deficiencies of the current methods used to differentiate one business from another.
I’ve used it for years and have seen the incredible success businesses have had with it.
‘We are the ONLY business that …’ is the way to communicate specific value to your target customer group in a way that can be measured.
It’s hard work creating The ONLY Statement for your organization but it’s worth it if you really want to separate yourself from the boring herd.