“An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.” – Jack Welch
The key word that Jack Welch uses in this quote is action. And we’re not talking about undirected or aimless action here; we’re referring to action based upon knowledge. Now in terms of marketing ourselves and our businesses, that’s a core philosophy that we need to adhere to in order to produce better results. Otherwise, you may as well go to Vegas, because your marketing simply becomes gambling. And if you’re a gambler, you know very well that there is no such thing as a sure thing – not if you’re gambling legally and ethically anyway.
So with that being said, what I’d like to do is give you high-level exposure to my simple 3 step system for gaining a competitive advantage with a target market. Here goes:
1. Identify your Competitive Landscape
Before we begin this step, it’s important to note here that competition comes at us in two ways: both directly and indirectly.
Direct competitors are those ‘apples-to-apples’ type competitors. For example:
- Two or more newspapers going after the same subscriber base
- Two or more business coaches serving the same niche
- Two or more books by different authors covering the same topic
Indirect competitors are those ‘apples-to-oranges’ type competitors – they are not the same exact fruit however in some instances they fill the same need. For example:
- Yoga classes versus medication to provide relief for an ailing back
- Fast food versus diet pills to satisfy hunger
- The “do-it-yourselfer” versus a service provider
And we can go on and on and on here however I think you get the point
So go ahead and make a list of who you see as your top 5 to 10 competitors and remember to factor in both the direct and indirect ones.
2. Gather Key Data
Now that you’ve identified your key competitors, it’s time for you to really get to know them – it’s homework time – it’s time to dig in and do some research. At a minimum, I recommend you gather the following key data regarding the competitive business, product, or service – Maybe even make a little table or chart for yourself:
- What are their Strengths?
- What are their Weaknesses?
- What Opportunities do they create for you?
- What Threats do they pose for you?
- What Features do they offer?
- What Benefits do they claim?
- What’s their Unique Selling Proposition (USP)?
- What marketing Strategies & Tactics do they employ?
Alright now that you know what you need to collect, here are a few suggestions to help you find what you’re looking for:
- For starters, ‘Google’ them – search for their business, product, or service online and see what you find
- Next, check out their Web site – you may find everything you need right there
- Then, get on their mailing lists – usually you can do this by simply “opting-in” on their Web site
- And lastly, if you haven’t found what you’re looking for using the Internet, as an offline tactic, get to know your local Librarian and ask for their help – I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that many of them are expert researchers
As you can see there are lots of ways to find out what you want to know – and the Internet has certainly made this process much easier.
3. Put That Data to Use
Let me reiterate that Jack Welch quote again. Now I know it’s twice in one article but it’s a really appropriate quote. So here goes: “An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.”
Hmmm… So it’s what we do with what we discover in the first two steps of this system that can give us that edge that we’re looking for. Let me explain. You should leverage the information you uncover to determine how to uniquely position and promote yourself to your target market. Use it to differentiate yourself from the competition. Use it as input in creating your brand. Use it to determine what to say in your marketing to you target market. And ultimately, use it to help you determine what marketing strategies & tactics to use.
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