Finding Your Marketing Competitive Advantage

To craft a marketing strategy that brings in the business, you've got to home in on the problems your prospects face and then figure out how your products or services can be the solution.

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In their book Guerrilla Marketing Field Guide, the founder of guerrilla marketing, Jay Conrad Levinson, and his wife and business partner, Jeannie Levinson, offer a step-by-step guide to launching a marketing strategy. In this edited excerpt, the authors offer advice for determining your company's competitive advantages.

Even if you knew war better than anyone else, that's no guarantee you'd be a good soldier. Knowledge alone doesn't get the job done. The same is true about marketing. Knowing about it is a good thing, but unless you maneuver your knowledge into action, it's pretty meaningless. It's knowledge plus action that's going to get you to your goals and beyond.

To put our battle strategy into action, you must first know why anyone would choose to do business with you rather than with your competitors. When you can answer that question, then you can determine and exploit your competitive advantage -- something you'll use in all your marketing.

Everybody touts benefits in their marketing, but the most successful marketers stress their unique benefits and play up the things they do better than anyone else. That's where you hang your marketing hat. That's your competitive advantage.

Related: How to Make Your Marketing Work Together

Perhaps you have so many competitive advantages, you don't know how to promote them all. Then, the only ones you should consider bringing to market are those that translate into instant profits for your company. A new method of dramatic fabrication will probably only bore your prospects, unless the benefits are as dazzling as the marketing spin and conveyance.

Perhaps you can't really see any marketable competitive advantages at your company. Realize that a savvy marketer discovers or creates them. The area most fertile for creating a new competitive advantage is service.

For example, there are gobs of automobile detailers in Marin County, California. All of them charge about the same price, do about the same job. So why did we pick P&H Class Details to detail our car? Because they make house calls. We didn't have to waste time attending to the details of detailing. Instead, we made a phone call and P&H took over from there.

We were impressed by P&H's competitive advantage, though they didn't offer it when they started in business. But at some point, P&H surveyed the competitive scene, realized a detailing service could be a competitive advantage created one and advertised it. That's exactly why we're recommending that you zero in on an area that could be your competitive advantage.

See what your competitors are offering. Patronize them if you can, and keep an eagle eye open 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 could turn up many nifty areas upon which you may 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 might want to offer.

Related: The Five Broad Strokes of Marketing

During your search, focus on problems that besiege your prospects. A well-known axiom of marketing has always been that it's much simpler to sell the solution to a problem than it is to sell a positive benefit. For this reason, marketers home in on the problems confronting their prospects and then offer their products or services as solutions to those problems.

Everybody's got problems. Your job is to spot those problems. One of the ways to do this is through networking. Networking is not just a time to toot your own trombone, but to ask questions, listen carefully to the answers, and keep your marketing radar attuned to the presence of problems -- particularly those being experienced by your potential clients. After learning about those problems, you can develop some solutions and then contact the prospect and offer your unique solutions.

You can also learn of problems that require solving at trade shows, professional association meetings, prospect questionnaires, and even sales calls. As you already know, people do not buy shampoo; they buy clean, great-looking hair. That's called selling the benefit.

Your biggest job is to be sure your products and services do the same. Perhaps you'll have to undergo major repositioning to accomplish this. That's not a bad thing, if it improves your profits. Far more doors will be open to you if you can achieve it.

To begin to find your competitive advantage, make a list of the benefits only you offer. Which of those are most important to your prospects? Once you've identified those competitive advantages, you've got a ticket to ride -- all the way to the bank.

Related: A Quick Guide to Naming Your Business

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