Editor's note: This Entrepreneur.com "Best Read'' was originally posted March 25, 2015.
What differentiates you from everybody else, and why should people choose you and your business over your competitors? These are questions you should be asking yourself on a consistent basis, and as entrepreneurs we're always looking for ways increase our leverage.
Leverage can change your life and business, but only if you take full advantage of it.
In this challenging new economy you need every advantage you can get, especially in entrepreneurship and business. Gaining the competitive advantage isn’t easy and chaos is almost guaranteed, but the upside outweighs the tough times. Here are five fail-proof ways to gain a competitive advantage as an entrepreneur:
1. Positioning is better than prospecting.
Everybody is looking for prospects, clients and customers. This never-ending process will eventually burn you out, and is tough to scale. An easier way to approach your business is to position yourself as the leading authority, expert, specialist or trusted advisor on your subject. This takes strategic and intentional action, but the rewards are exponential.
When you’re perceived as the expert, people will start coming to you vs. you chasing them. Be more elite and exclusive, and make it an honor to work with you.
2. Plans fail, movements don’t.
Reposition your business and make it “about something.” Think about Disney. It’s not about movies, amusement parks or cruises, the company is where “Dreams come true.” Think about how Subway went from being a fast-food chain to being a weight loss program.
The entrepreneurs on a mission bigger than themselves are always attracting top tier talent. Life becomes much more fulfilling when you become involved in a movement or a cause greater than yourself.
3. Stand on the shoulders of giants.
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel, and you sure as hell don’t need to figure everything out yourself. Find something that is already working and make it better. In an interview I did with Gary Vaynerchuk, he said:
A penguin cannot become a giraffe, so just be the best penguin you can be.
A smart person learns from their mistakes, as all successful people do, but those wanting world-class results learn from other people's mistakes so they can shorten their learning curve, and not waste as much time.
4. Become a people developer.
One of the biggest learning curves I had to go through as a young entrepreneur was realizing I couldn’t do it all by myself. You not only need a solid team around you, but you need to know how to develop and lead that team.
When you watch sports, you’ll find the most successful teams play well together, compliment each other and have one single focus: winning. The same goes for business and life. The people you have in your inner circle, and those you associate with the most are your team.
Who needs to be on your team to make sure you have a “dream team"? All successful people have mastered building teams, and have supportive people around them that compliment their strengths and make up for their weaknesses.
5. Create raving fans and advocates.
The likelihood of the marketplace responding because you want something is non-existent! Business is the management of promises and if you can consistently deliver and exceed promises for all your customers, you’re ahead of the game. It’s much more expensive to get a new customer than it is to take care of the ones you have.
The purpose of business is to create raving fans and advocates, who will go out of their way to promote what you do. Not because you asked them, but because they want to. Outstanding client support and service is affected by every person in your organization -- from reception to the mail room to the CEO. You must create a culture where people are passionate about meeting the clients needs.