How to Claim a Competitive Advantage in a Commoditized Market

October 20, 2010 at 10:49 am | Blog

Say it Before Your Competitor Does

One of the best ways to stake out a competitive advantage is to take credit for what everyone else in your industry is already doing. State “it” before your competitor does.

This doesn’t mean you’re being dishonest – it means that you’re helping to educate customers about how your business works, in a way that’s true for the particular practices of your company. And if you get known as being the “first” in your industry to offer a certain competitive advantage, so much the better for you.

Some companies have a hard time finding their competitive advantages (aka unique selling point, differentiator etc). If you’re in an industry where every competitor does things pretty much the same way, what reason does a customer have to choose your business over any other? What if your product or service is considered a commodity?

Example of a Company Claiming a Competitive Advantage First

One of our clients a few years back was a regional pest control business that was trying to find new ways to differentiate itself from the competition. At one of the workshops we led with the top management, we went through all the possible competitive advantage statements, and talked about everything that might be considered special and noteworthy about the business.

One of the top executives mentioned, “Well, we do a lot of training.” One of the other executives was not convinced that this was a valid point of difference – “Heck, everyone in our industry does that – it’s required.”

We asked the team to tell us more. It turns out that this pest control company, like all of its competitors, spent a significant amount of time training its employees every year – everything from technical requirements to safety regulations. But no one – not this company or any of its competitors – used “training” as part of its competitive advantages in their marketing messages.

This was a great opportunity – a hidden gem of competitive advantage.  We did some more research and were able to accurately describe that the company spent over a million dollars a year on technical, safety and environmental compliance training for its employees – and this became one of the key elements of the company’s revised marketing and sales messages.

So even if “everyone else is doing it,” there still might be a competitive advantage lurking in some of the most mundane or expected practices at your company.

What Your Company Could Claim as a Competitive Advantage

  • A bank could claim: “We passed 100% of our regulatory compliance checks during the previous year.” (Even though regulatory compliance is a fundamental responsibility of banks, not all banks pass 100% of their compliance checks.)
  • An architecture firm could claim: “100% of our new associates are professionally certified in architecture.” (How many competitors are claiming this, even if they can?)
  • A construction contractor could claim: “We have a ‘safety first, no injury’ culture – and last year we lost zero days to injury.” (This message appeals to customers who want a professionally run contractor that pays attention to a safe workplace – and whose attention to detail and adherence to budgets and deadlines are likely to be strong as well.)

Even if “everyone is doing it,” they might not all be “saying it.” So maybe you should – in a way that is true and accurate for your company and relevant to your customers.