Why ‘The Only Statement’ Is the Best Way To Claim Your Competitive Advantage

Perhaps you’ve got an incredible product portfolio built on an amazing technology platform and believe that the potential for revenue growth is staring you in the face.

The truth of the matter, however, is that if you can’t answer this question, your growth intentions will never be realized.

“Why should I do business with you and not your competition?” is the killer question faced by every organization.

In today’s noisy world with every organization shouting out why they should be chosen, the marketer needs to determine how to get their products, services and solutions noticed in the milieu. They need a competitive claim that is unique and stands apart from your competitors.

Unfortunately, however, competitive claims made by organizations today lack creativity, imagination and truth.

Copying pervades — I would give most organizations today a less than satisfactory rating in terms of how well they address this challenge.

The tendency of most is to go on a copying rampage where the priority is on replicating in some way what someone else is doing in terms of products, services, pricing, distribution and brand positioning. Other players are benchmarked on some capability and the copycat strategy unfolds.

Even a fast follower is a copycat; they just do it faster!

Copying doesn’t create uniqueness and differences; it proliferates sameness.

It dilutes any marginal differences among organizations that might exist and renders them all as look-alikes. And it lowers the bar for each competitor to achieve.

The usual clap trap — Most differentiation statements advocated by organizations and intended to convince us involve words like ‘best’, ‘number one’, ‘leader’, ‘fastest growing’, ‘most’ and ‘highest quality’ to assert their distinguishable characteristics vis-a-vis their competition.

These are common statements which add little to clarifying the clutter:

  • We have the best sales team in the business;
  • Our people strive to deliver the highest level of client service at all times;
  • We offer the highest quality products;
  • We have the most knowledgeable salespeople;
  • We have been in business for over 30 years;
  • We rank number one in client satisfaction;
  • We are the preeminent sales organization in North America.

Unfortunately, these declarations add little understanding to help people select a company to do business with.

How exactly does having knowledgeable employees make an organization the right choice given a number of alternatives to choose from who will all claim the same thing? And who decided that an organization has the best customer service, and why should I believe them? 

And why should I be impressed with any organization that ‘strives’ to deliver great service — I won’t give anyone my business who claims their special sauce is that they try hard.

These statements are confusing and have little credibility with their audience. They are generally vague and aspirational without proven substance.

A credible competitive claim needs to be simple and specific in terms of how an organization is different from the competitive herd.

It needs to address a high priority customer need (claiming to be unique on something a customer doesn’t care about isn’t productive) and it needs to be true (failing to consistently deliver will drive a customer elsewhere).

Most competitive claims rely on overused clap-trap to position themselves against their competitors

In response to the need for clarity in competitive claims, I created what I call ‘The ONLY Statement’ as the practical way to do it.

‘We are the only ones that….’ is the claim that will cut through the clutter and make it clear why you should be chosen among your competitors.

“We provide the ONLY permanent solution that prevents biohazard contaminants (such as used syringes) and all other debris from entering manholes.”

What Jerry said

Jerry Garcia, leader of the former legendary rock band The Grateful Dead, nailed it: “You don’t want merely to be the best of the best. You want to be the only ones who do what you do.”

ONLY dispels the clap trap; here’s why:

Confidence — ONLY is bold; some might say arrogant. It’s audacious in the claim to be the one that owns a particular space and is prepared to show all to prove it.

This confident face of the organization, in and of itself, raises curiosity to find out what it’s all about. It’s not without its risks but well worth stepping out of your comfort area to say it.

Simplicity — ONLY is a simple expression which uses simple language. The low fog factor invites eyes to gaze on and process the thought articulated in it rather than struggle through what it means which is the case with the usual clap trap.

Clean form — ONLY relies on a binary view; the claim is either true or false. It exists or it doesn’t. It makes it very easy for the reader to assess both its relevance and its truth.

Emotional appeal — ONLY is built around what is relevant to the customer’s the organization has chosen to serve — what their target customer group cares about — therefore these specific people are warmed up to the competitive claim being made.

“We are the ONLY team that provides safety solutions anywhere, anytime that go beyond what customers ask to help build their business.”

This statement speaks volumes to those who could be in need on a moment’s notice and it reassures them that resources will be available to help them should the need arise.

Revealing shape — ONLY provides detail and clarity around what the solution does, to make it easy for the potential buyer to make an informed decision. It has the cutting edges and lines of specificity that attract followers.

“Unlike other distracted driving solutions that allow drivers to use their smartphone when driving, eBrake is the ONLY one that automatically locks a driver’s phone when motion is detected, but grants passengers unrestricted use.”

Proof — ONLY is easily measured by asking the frontline and customers whether the claim is true or not; the measurement process is simple.

In addition, the researcher can look up and compare other organizations and what they offer as a competitive claim and reach their own conclusions on ONLY’s efficacy.

Distinctiveness — ONLY is different. There is no other similar proven method of creating a claim of competitive advantage offered by strategy advisors in the consulting community.

It has a track record of success with many organizations I have had the pleasure of working with. No other advisor, consultant, academic or strategy pundit has a tool in their kitbag like ONLY but Roy — I am the ONLY one.

ONLY is a sound bite that punches above its weight. It’s small in frame and carries enormous impact.

Rules for ONLY — ONLY isn’t sexy through serendipity; it achieves sexiness by rigorously adhering to a set of rules to create it; here they are:

ONLY must speak to the experiences and value you create for people not the products or services you want to push; it needs to be highly relevant and address the priorities that customers have expressed.

People want to buy things that help create memorable experiences for themselves or produce benefits that solve problems they have.

If an organization can craft their ONLY to address an overwhelming craving or desire their target customer has, a sustainable competitive advantage for the organization is within their grasp.

Keep it brief. ONLY is a sound bite. It’s a nano-statement that shouldn’t require you to take a second breath. If it’s a narrative that consumes a page it’s not a viable claim.

ONLY must talk to the specific customer group you are targeting and not the market in general. It’s really important that ONLY be as specific as possible which comes from addressing identifiable customers; market communication dilutes the claim which renders it incomprehensible and ineffective. Talk to customers rather than markets if you want your message to be acted on.

Test your ONLY with customers and employees; it must be relevant — it satisfies a compelling want or desire customers have — and true — the organization delivers the capabilities promised by ONLY consistently day-in and day-out.

Claiming you are the ONLY one at something that your target customers don’t believe is deadly. They will tell everyone that you’re lying and that doesn’t turn out well.▪️Consider your ONLY a draft. The reality is you won’t get it completely right the first time, so take your almost-there result and start working with it with your customer segments. Refine it as you go.

And stay alert for a response by a competitor who may suddenly come awake when they see your move.if this happens you may very well have to go back to the drawing board and make some changes.

“We are the ONLY First Aid Advocate that provides safety solutions anywhere, anytime.”

ONLY is a war-rallying-cry of sorts for your employees; it should get their juices flowing. It defines the hill you are claiming and dares the competition to climb it.

Your employees have to feel what it says and be able (with the help of the serving leader) to define exactly what it requires each and every one of them to do in order to deliver on it.

ONLY beats ‘best’; ONLY beats ‘#1’; ONLY beats ‘the leader in…’; ONLY is the clear winner if you want a sustainable competitive advantage.

Related: Why Your Business Tools Might Be Useless and How To Find the Right Ones