competetive advantageFor many business owners, the New Year represents a time to start over or to introduce a new line of products and/or services. For me, the idea of using the end of the year to regroup and realign my business based on my strengths and uniqueness is one of my most important tasks of the year. That means, figuring out what will make my business stand out from the rest and then devising a plan to spend 2014 doing it.

Successful business growth is no longer just about the company’s products or services. Understanding your competitive edge is an essential component in the continued growth and expansion of your business. Many companies have competitive advantages, but there are also few which can clearly articulate them. If you clearly know your competitive advantages and what makes your business unique and you are able to articulate it clearly to prospective customers, you will rise above your competition to make more sales, more profits and more long-term satisfied customers. Going forward, one of the fundamental questions every business must address is – what is your competitive advantage and how do I communicate that in a clear and concise manner as to allow potential customers to make an affirmative buying decision.  By being able to articulate this you’ll be in a position to help your customers distinguish between you and your competition.

I do a lot of networking as I travel from place to place and conduct workshops on building a functional business and, I am yet amazed to find how many business owners and salespeople do not know and cannot articulate their competitive advantage to their prospects, existing customers or potential business partners.

Simply put, a competitive advantage is the one (or more) element of your business that distinguishes you from the pack and helps to create a barrier to entry for competitors. It is what makes you different. Anytime your customers can’t tell the difference between your product or service and your competitor’s product or service, the customer will make his decision to buy based on price. Hence, the importance of your being able to differentiate your company, your product, your quality, your service, and yourself if you want the customer to stop focusing on price and begin to see you as a strategic partner, rather than just as a supplier. You’ve got to show him how you are different.

Imagine a room full of business persons who all have something to sell, trade or convince you of. How could one reasonably expect a prospect or customer to give you their time and attention when you cannot tell them in a concise way what they can do for them that no one else can do?

Frequently, people who do not understand their company’s competitive advantage will mention that their product is of better quality or that their customer service is better. Even if a company is has better quality product or better customer service, it won’t convince its customers just by saying so because many of its competitors will be saying the exact same thing! You have to define quality. You have to demonstrate what outstanding customer service looks like and how your service differs from the competition.

How can you demonstrate your competitive advantage? Make a point to examine your company’s unique selling points and put them into a concise statement which reflects your company’s core competitive advantage. The statement of competitive advantage is a 30-second statement which conveys in one or two sentences what the company does, for whom it does this, how this uniquely solves an urgent need in the market, and why competitors cannot imitate it.

Start by breaking down the components of your product or service into four distinct categories, competitive uniquenesses, competitive advantages, competitive parities, and competitive disadvantages.I can’t stress enough the importance this exercise in order to create your statement of competitive advantage. By doing this analysis you’ll be in a position to help your customers distinguish between you and your competition. Once they see your uniquenesses and understand the advantages you represent, it will be easier for them to make a decision in your favor.

Your statement of competitive advantage has four components: your name, your company, a statement about a typical problem experienced in your target market, and an intriguing statement about how you can help solve that problem.

Here is an example of a businessperson (car salesman) who understands his competitive advantage: “My name is Chris from Microtone Computers. We’ve found that there is a lot of confusion in the personal computer and tablet market today because there have been over 150 new models introduced in just the past two years. We’ve developed a user-friendly program that profiles everything the buyer wants in a computer and in less than five minutes, identifies the models most likely to fit their needs.”

That really does set you apart from the competition and it makes you sound like a polished expert right from the start.  The businesses that will thrive in the New Year and beyond will be those which find that special way to distinguish them from the competition and understand how to consistently communicate and deliver value for their clients.

 Your entire approach to networking and sales should be built around your company’s strengths. If you clearly know your competitive advantages and uniquenesses and are able to articulate them clearly to prospective customers, you will rise above your competition to make more sales, more profits and create more long-term satisfied customers

As you being to establish your business goals for the New Year, try to avoid simply thinking of new products you can offer or new markets you can targets, rather consider what you can do to distinguish your business in the minds of any potential client as the one who can serve their needs better than anyone else.

 

James C RoundsJames Rounds is the founder and principal advisor of Integrated Corporate Solutions, a business development and advisory services firm which specializes in early stage business development and nonprofit development. He is an expert business advisor who helps early stage entrepreneurs and solo professionals gain more clarity and confidence to experience even-greater impact, influence and income. James educates entrepreneurs and existing companies on subjects including small business start-up, strategic planning, corporate compliance and networking. To find out how he can help you to develop your business and take it to the next level, visit his site at http://www.mycorporatesolutions.net.

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