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Can Your Business Create an Unfair Competitive Advantage?

By Ryan Rieches

Early in my career, I got some great advice from a client’s CEO. He had started, built and successfully sold a number of companies and I asked him to share his secret to success. His answer was, “never start a company unless you have an unfair competitive advantage”. Being in marketing, I related to the base line approach of developing a unique selling proposition, but the concept of being “unfair” caught me off guard. He went on to explain that most of his companies were technology based and he would not venture into a business unless the new technology was capable of affording him a significant head start whereby the competition would be playing catch up for years. The benefit of being the innovator and only provider gave him that “unfair advantage” but that alone wasn’t enough to guarantee success. That is where brand strategy comes in. You must be known for a single value proposition and just as importantly, your new promise must be accepted as credible and reliable. Often, early innovation is viewed as risky, which requires a more comprehensive story to be told to ensure acceptance. For example, when we build brands at RiechesBaird, we make sure that the new brand promise can live up to being believable, defendable and relevant – if it falls short on any one of the three, it is doomed for failure.

When I share this story with others I often get the response – “But my company doesn’t have the benefit of proprietary technology or IP”. The reality is that it doesn’t have to. You can generate a similar advantage by establishing the following:

Focus – “Commit to being known for one thing.”

Avoid trying to promote and sell everything possible that your company, product or service can offer. Singular focus establishes clear value in the mind of the prospect, which can be much more easily remembered and shared with others.

Communicate – “Consistency and continuity lead to clarity.”

From the top down and throughout the organization, develop common language that becomes so engrained that the story comes out naturally. Unfortunately, people inside an organization tend to get tired of telling the same story far before their prospective audience is able to grasp it.

Deliver – “Keep your promise.”

A clear brand clearly defines an organization’s “promise of distinction.” That promise must be understood throughout the company so everyone knows their role in delivering that promise. There are literally hundreds of brand touch points that a customer can come in contact with throughout the buying process. If any of these touch points fail to deliver upon your unique promise, trust is immediately compromised and loyalty begins to fade. And we all know the consequences of a disgruntled customer telling their friends –especially in today’s social media landscape.

In certain networking circles, I have become known as the guy who asks people to introduce their company through the lens of sharing their unfair competitive advantage. It’s not easy to do, but I invite you to take the time to define or redefine yours.