You've got the coolest widget or service around--now all you need is a solid competitive advantage to shout from the rooftops. And we're not talking the usual clichés, either. If your marketing materials say, "We have great service, knowledgeable people and great experience," go back to the drawing board. "Everyone's saying that," says Jaynie L. Smith, author of Creating Competitive Advantage and founder of Smart Advantage Inc., a consulting company in Hollywood, Florida. "How can you say it in a way that [the customer] believes you? Be different--talk about specifics. By using measurable, quantifiable statements, you get a lot more credibility."
First, do some market research to find out what your customers care about most. Is it fast deliveries? Longer hours? Determine what moves them, says Smith, and edit your competitive advantage message accordingly. Maybe your competitors offer more than 10 varieties or have a good safety record, but if they're not saying it to customers, you should. "If we say 95 percent of our business comes from referrals, and the other guy is not saying that, then we look like the leader," says Smith.
Finally, make sure your competitive advantage is heard. Create your top bullet points and put them on your letterhead, business card, invoices, etc. "It's not just about bringing [in] new customers--it's about keeping the ones you have," says Smith. "The competition is knocking on your customers' doors every day, so customers need to know why they're staying as much as the [new prospect] needs to know why he's going to do business with you."