Determine Your Dominant Competitive Advantages – Part 4

Competitive Advantage Green Bay PackersNote: This is part 4 of a 4-part series.

In part 3 of this series, we talked about the turf you wish to defend in the marketplace and what you want to be known for.

This last post will put it all together to help you determine your dominant competitive advantages and revamp your marketing messages to include them … which will enable you to beat your competition and win mindshare in the marketplace.

Go ahead and grab that list of strengths that you created while reading my previous post. (If you haven’t done so yet, simply write down those features and benefits of your products and services that are routinely mentioned by your employees and customers and most often proudly listed in your brochures, website and other marketing material.)

Thinking about them is helpful, but seeing them in black and white enables you to take the next step – applying the dominant competitive advantage criteria.

Emotional Triggers That Transform Strengths into Competitive Advantages

As we’ve discussed, strengths are common to every company. The fact that you’re still in business indicates that you have strengths, but strengths alone will never propel a company’s growth, and over the long term, strengths won’t even sustain growth.

Companies that consistently expand in a profitable manner have learned to take their strengths and transform them into competitive advantages. For a strength to become a competitive advantage, it must adhere to one or more of the following nine principles:

1) Quantifiable, not arbitrary

As Jaynie Smith states in her book Creating Competitive Advantage, a competitive advantage must be quantifiable. To be quantifiable, simply apply numbers to your strength. Instead of saying “We’ve been in business a long time” say “We’ve been in business for 31 years.” It’s simple, but in the mind of the listeners, it’s quantifiable, not arbitrary.

Instead of saying, “We have great customer service” say “We ship 99% of our orders the same day, 100% complete.” Instead of saying, “We have one of the largest inventories” say “We have a $10 million inventory, which is the largest in the industry.”

Simple? Yes.

Quantifiable? Absolutely.

2) Objective and credible – not subjective and vague

Objective simply means it’s not debatable. Everybody agrees that it is accurate. Here are examples:

    • We have achieved the highest quality rating by the national standards board 11 years in a row.
    • We have 14 locations in 5 states to serve you.
    • We have been voted number 1 in the best places to work for list for companies under 100 employees for 5 years in a row.

3) True and accurate

True simply means that we don’t exaggerate, we don’t add to, we don’t embellish, and it’s not a gimmick or a fad. We violate a lot of truth when we say things to our market like “we’ve trained thousands” or “we’ve done hundreds” or “we have millions of clients.” That information is not credible, nor does it pass the test of being quantifiable or objective.

The mind is quick to parse out what is accurate and what is not accurate. Daniel Pink describes in his book A Whole New Mind that at the base of the brain sits two almond shaped structures that serve as the brain’s “department of homeland security.” They’re called the amygdalas, and they play a crucial role in processing emotions, especially fear.

The amygdalas are ever on the lookout for threats in our midst, and the amygdala in the left hemisphere guards the side of our brain that processes textual information. Not surprisingly, if the brain hears a “fact” that it the amygdala doesn’t process as truthful, it will immediately be dismissed, and your “competitive advantage” now becomes a detriment.

4) Not currently stated by your competitors

What’s the safest car in the world? If you’re over 40, certainly the first thought that comes to mind is Volvo. Is Volvo the safest car in the world? Maybe – maybe not, but they took that ground decades ago and have never relinquished it. To the world, they have become the safest car.

For many years there wasn’t a young couple that when they were expecting their first child didn’t look around and say, “Can we afford a Volvo? I want my wife and children to be safe.”

Find your common ground. Find the ground you want to protect. Find the ground you believe you can defend. Find the highest ground possible. Own it. Control it. Make it yours. Build your message around those things that your competition is not currently stating, even if it is something that they could say.

If you beat them to it, then you can own it.

5) Contrasting – black vs. white; right vs. wrong

In their book Neuromarketing, Patrick Renvoise and Christophe Morin say that having your strength sensitive to solid contrast is essential if you want it to become a competitive advantage. The brain understands before and after, risky and safe, with and without. Without contrast, the brain stays in a constant state of confusion and cannot make a quick decision.

Is your competitive advantage sensitive to solid contrast? Do you have any of the attributes identified with contrast?

6) Using tangible data & concrete facts

Your prospect’s brain is constantly scanning for what is familiar and friendly. It cannot process things like “flexible solution,” “integrated approach,” or “scalable architecture” without a lot of effort.

The brain understands things like, “more money,” “24 hour turnaround,” “unbreakable,” “none better,” “20% ROI,” and other simple, tangible words and phrases.

7) Self-centered – emotional

Like it or not, buyers always have a hot button. It may be well disguised and it may take time to find it, but it’s what we refer to as one’s self-centeredness or emotional epicenter. It’s the what’s in it for me approach.

You see, every decision has a certain amount of what’s in it for me. I am only concerned with issues and results that help me, my team, my problem or those who depend on me.

A competitive advantage can attack the self-centeredness of your prospect’s pain.  Your prospects pain can generally be defined in one or two of the five Ps: production, profit, prestige, potential or personal.

For example, if your prospect has a ‘profit pain’, i.e. they’re not making enough money, your solution or service or product must help them increase their profit; help them avoid a cost; must help them reduce a cost; or must help them increase their revenue … profit can be a pain that is self-centered and emotional but powerful, and when your competitive advantage attacks their self-centered pain it’s powerful.

If your service, solution or product is to be chosen, it must appeal to your buyer’s hot button.

 8) Focused and simple

The Green Bay Packers have won more championships – 12 – than any other team in National Football League history. They won their first three in 1929, 1930 and 1931, and won nine more after the NFL’s playoff system was established in 1933.

Green Bay is also the only NFL team to win three straight titles. They have done it twice. Perhaps the most famous of those periods were the 1965, ’66, ’67 championship teams led by their legendary coach, Vince Lombardi, and great players like Bart Starr, Max McGee, Fuzzy Thurston, Jim Taylor, Paul Hornung and a host of other incredible athletes who steamrolled the elite of football.

Vince Lombardi understood competitive advantage; that’s what he was describing when he said, “We only run seven plays in our entire offensive system, and we run them so good and so effective, you can’t stop us. In fact, I’ll even tell you when we are going to run them, and we’ll still beat you because my team is more focused, more determined, and better disciplined than any other.”

Now that’s competitive advantage coming alive, and that’s focused and simple.

Let’s refer back to Chip and Dan Heath’s book Made to Stick. For an idea or competitive advantage to really stick in the mind of the prospect, it must be simple. Heath says that as a successful defense lawyer, if you argue ten points – even if each is a good point – when the jury gets back to the jury room, they won’t remember any of them. Not a single one.

We must create ideas that are both simple and profound. The golden rule is an ultimate model of simplicity – a one sentence statement so profound that an individual could spend a lifetime learning to follow it.

9) Using stories

You want the listener to understand what you’re tapping (from the study I referenced in part 1). To get your listener to act on what you are communicating, tell stories.

Stories acts as a kind of mental flight simulator preparing us to respond more quickly and effectively. Your competitive advantages must be filled with stories that are simple and visual and that the prospect can see themselves in. Not only do you build credibility, you also can place a lot of objective, quantifiable information in your stories.

Do your competitive advantages use stories? Or are they just filled with unemotional facts? 

Applying the Emotional Triggers

Now, take each of the strengths that you’ve listed and apply each of the 9 emotional triggers to them. If the trigger is applicable to your strength, record it.

Review each of your strengths and see which score the highest. A 9 is rare, but if your highest score is a 3, you might have a lot of work to complete.

Using Your Competitive Advantages in Your Messages

After you’ve determined your competitive advantages, review your marketing and sales messaging. Are you using them in your communication with the marketplace? Is your team using them?

Check your website, your sales material, your marketing campaigns, your brand positioning statements, your elevator pitch, and the way that your sales and marketing team describes your company / product / service to others. Are they using them to differentiate and win business?

If you need to revamp your messaging, do it sooner rather than later. Using your competitive advantages in your communications with the market will allow you to position yourself to defend your turf, beat your competition, and be known for that certain “something.”

If you’d like help, feel free to connect with me, and we can see if my team can assist.