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Clear Advantage

Focusing on your company's competitive edge.

Many of today's products and services are so similar to each other that the only difference is in their marketing. Companies try to woo new customers with jingles, special effects, gimmicks, freebies and sales. Although these marketing devices can help, a serious guerrilla knows there are other marketing weapons with far more potency.

The most important of these are competitive advantages. If your widget doubles a company's profits, grows hair on bald heads or attracts lifelong partners, you don't have to use gimmicks, and jingles will just get in the way of clarity. Just the truth will do very nicely, thank you.

Perhaps you have a plethora of competitive advantages. The only ones that can be translated into instant profits for your company are the marketable ones. A new kind of fabricating material, unless it is a dramatic advancement with dazzling benefits, will probably only bore your prospects.

The idea is to identify your marketable competitive advantages, then concentrate heavily on those. If you don't have any marketable competitive advantages, know that a savvy guerrilla discovers them or creates them.

The most fertile area for creating a new competitive advantage is service. There are gobs of automobile detailers in my area. All of them charge about the same price and do about the same job. But why did I pick P&H Class Details to detail my car? Because they make house calls.

I didn't have to waste one second of my precious time attending to the details of detailing. Instead, I made a phone call, and P&H took over from there. I was impressed by their competitive advantage--though they didn't even mention that advantage back when they started in business. Reason: They didn't offer it then. But they surveyed the competitive scene, then invented and advertised it. That's exactly what I'm recommending you do.

See what your competitors are offering. Patronize them if you can. Keep an eagle eye out for areas in which you can surpass them, especially in service. Perhaps you can offer faster delivery, on-site service, gift wrapping, more frequent follow-up, maintenance for a period of time, installation, a longer guarantee, training, shipping . . . the possibilities are virtually endless.

A customer questionnaire will turn up many nifty areas upon which you can concentrate. Ask why people patronize the businesses they do. Ask what the ideal business would offer. Ask what they like best about your company. Pay close attention to the answers because some might be pointing directly at the competitive advantages you could offer.

Does it cost much to offer a competitive advantage? Nope. It takes brainpower, time, energy and imagination, but it is not a matter of money. And that is precisely why guerrillas score so many bull's eyes--using the brute force of a brilliant competitive edge to negate the need for a huge budget.

Maybe you already have a competitive advantage that is not yet marketed as such. The important thing for you to do is to identify or create your own competitive advantage, then let it propel you to victory.

To find your competitive advantage, make a list of the benefits you offer. Of those benefits, many are being offered by your competition as well. But which do you offer that they do not? Those are your edges. Which of those are most important to your prospects? Once you have identified those competitive advantages, you've got a ticket to ride--all the way to the bank.

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Jay Conrad Levinson is the father of Guerrilla Marketing, the bestselling marketing series in history, selling more than 14 million copies worldwide. He is chairman of Guerrilla Marketing International. His latest books include Guerrilla Marketing in 30 Days, 2nd. Edition with Al Lautenslager, Guerrilla Marketing on the Internet with Mitch Meyerson and Mary Eule Scarborough, and Startup Guide to Guerrilla Marketing with Jeannie Levinson.

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This article was originally published in the June 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Clear Advantage.

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