Companies leave potential business on the table all the time. It happens in so many different ways: potential contacts not followed up, proposals that don’t go far enough or meet the specific needs of customers, so sales aren’t closed when they should be. One significant overlooked reason is often at the root of the failure.
Don Campion, CEO of Banyan Air, a fixed base operator in the Ft. Lauderdale Executive Airport, noticed this trend with his company a few years ago. His sales and marketing efforts were in line with what most companies undertake, with the same type of results that most companies get. When I had begun to work with Banyan Air, Don and his crew were getting ready to exhibit at a trade show. I simply asked him what the message was that Banyan planned to convey from their booth and in their sales efforts
At first, he gave the usual responses: we offer great customer service, knowledgeable staff, and a good reputation. In other words, the same set of answers most every company gives – including his competitors. He wasn’t able to come up with anything that distinguished Banyan Air from other FBO’s when they clearly had a long list.
In other words, Banyan Air hadn’t developed and honed their marketing message to reflect true competitive advantages.
Companies that know and communicate their competitive advantages score big. Their ability to articulate and communicate them has a dramatic effect on their bottom-line. When done well, they build confidence in the buying decision and remove risk. And this, in turn, minimizes price as the issue.
Banyan Air had only to reveal their competitive advantages. The company was growing, but not at
a rate they felt possible. They had solid reasons for companies to do business with them. The key, for me, was to get them to understand those reasons and to tout them in a way that connected with their customers.
The more Don and his team delved into their operations and what they offered, they found the gold. On top of that, they had developed measurements for much of their operations that made it possible for Banyan Air to express those advantages convincingly.
Now, close to 10 years later, Banyan Air continues to refine their competitive advantages every year. They can tell prospects and customers what makes them distinct from their competition:
- Voted top FBO nationwide for the last ten years
- Home to 450 aircraft
- 24 hour, red carpet service to more turbine aircraft than any other southeast FBO (over 12,000)
- 30 Safety First certified line technicians who meet promised delivery date 99% on time
- Our service managers meet or beat repair quotes 97% of the time
They have developed even more. In fact, each department is encouraged to develop their own competitive advantages.
They made sure their employees, their customers, their suppliers, and almost everyone they come in contact with knows what makes them distinct.
They communicate their points on their website, direct mail, in proposals and quotes sent out daily. All their people are trained in how to communicate them. Don Campion says that once they got this nailed, they have doubled their sales in the last five years. They no longer leave business on the table. Is your company?
Most companies don’t understand how to find their own competitive advantages. When companies engage in this process, often they will come up with 10-20 statements and are satisfied with their efforts. We have found, upon guiding them to better understand their deliverables, it’s more common to come up with 75-100. It’s much easier to whittle the list down to those competitive advantages that are most valued by your customers than to try to come up with more when it may be too late. I have repeatedly seen double digit growth when companies get their arms around this.
Companies that don’t get their arms around this too often wind up competing solely on lowest price. I have seen too many companies leap frog their competitors to the bottom of the margin ladder. That’s not a prescription for long term success unless being thelow costprovider with the lowest profit margins in your market place is your company’s goal.
So seek and ye shall find… your company has gold in your deliverables. Shout them from the rooftops and increase your profitability.
*Written by Jaynie L. Smith, published in Affluent Magazine – September 2007
About Jaynie L. Smith and Smart Advantage, Inc.
Smart Advantage, Inc. is a consultancy founded by Jaynie L. Smith, author of the best-selling business bookCreating Competitive Advantage (Doubleday, 2006). Jaynie L. Smith has been a featured guest on ABC World News This Morning, Bloomberg News, and MSNBC discussing the Smart Advantage Process.
Based on more than 20 years experience with Fortune 500 companies and over 35,000 hours of CEO coaching, Jaynie L. Smith outlines a process for companies to understand, uncover, define, research, and edit their competitive advantages. Smart Advantage has refined, expanded, and licensed this process and consults with companies from Fortune 500 to mid-size and small firms.