By Todd Ballowe
How to Develop your Competitive Advantage: Part 2

So, you’re starting to get the hang of all this competitive advantage hooey. You understand that in order to know what to do, you’ve got to know why you’re in business, and you’ve got to be able to explain it succinctly. But how will you write this into your strategic plan? In order to communicate why you’re best to your employees and customers, you need to figure it out first. As part II of our competitive advantage posts, we’ll show you how.

We will cover:

  • Know: what activities set you apart from your competition
  • Figure out: how to develop and sustain your competitive advantages

Knowing What Activities Set You Apart

A competitive advantage isn’t just something you do well, you’ve got to be able to sustain it, and protect it from imitation. If your competitors can just pick it up and start doing it tomorrow, it’s not an advantage. Your competitive advantage should meet the following requirements:

  • Consistent difference: Customers must see a consistent difference between your product/service and those of your competitors. This difference needs to be obvious to your customers and it must influence their purchasing decision.
  • Difficult to imitate: Your competitive advantage must be difficult to imitate.  You want to have an advantage that your competition can’t easily duplicate or don’t understand how to copy. Often this comes in the form of people, proprietary knowledge within your organization, or business processes that are behind the scenes.
  • Constantly improved: The first two bulleted items in this list must create activities that can be constantly improved, nurtured, and worked at to maintain an edge over your competition. The comparison of Wal-Mart over Kmart is a great example of how one continued to improve its supply chain management and purchasing whereas the other didn’t.  Unfortunately for Kmart, it lost its edge because it didn’t constantly improve. Wal-Mart invests in ever-refining its product selection and processes.
    • Use your competitive advantages in your marketing material. Turn it into a tagline. Use it in a press release. Add it to your corporate About Us page on your Web site.
    • Communicate the advantage daily. Include your competitive advantage in your signature line on your e-mail. Add a line in your voicemail message or your automated voice attendant.
    • Tell your employees. Post it in common area. Add it to your internal blog.
    • Refine it by obtaining feedback from your customers. Ask a few of your best clients if they agree with your list of advantages. Improve or add to it based on their responses.
    • Make it better. Develop a handful of 30-day actions that you and your staff can start