Book Review – Creating Competitive Advantage

How many business owners or top managers can quickly articulate the competitive advantages that set their company apart from the competition?  In Jaynie L. Smith's experience as a consultant, not many!  In fact, in her research, only 2 out of 1,000 C.E.O.'s could do so.  Is it any wonder that so many manufacturers and retailers believe that consumers will only make purchases based on low prices?  Perhaps, this is why we have a fast “race to the bottom” on pricing and rapidly dwindling profit margins.  But this does not have to be the case.

“Creating Competitive Advantage” offers many powerful and practical strategies and exercises to help you to identify and articulate clear, compelling reasons why existing customers should continue to do business with you and why potential customers should choose you instead of your competitors.  In her workshops, the author asks owners and employees to come up with a list of competitive advantages that are:

Objective – not subjective

Quantifiable – not arbitrary

Are not already claimed by your competition

Are not cliches – always be specific!

So, for example – instead of saying, “We provide quality products,” say, “Last year, less than half of 1 percent of our customers returned one of our products.” (If your product is as good as you say, you won't have a lot of returns.  Quantify your results and the results that your customers report and then – let all your current and potential customers know about it – this becomes your competitive advantage.

The best possible summary of the book – and the reasons why you should run out to get and read this book – is listed on the cover jacket.  “The Five Fatal Flaws of Most Companies:”

1) They don't have a competitive advantage, but they think they do.

2) They have a competitive advantage but don't know what it is – so they lower prices instead.

3) They know what their competitive advantage is but neglect to tell clients about it.

4) They mistake “strengths” for competitive advantages.

5) They don't concentrate on competitive advantages when making strategic and operational decisions.

I really like this book.  The author goes to great length to detail specific results from some of the many companies she has worked with – the results are nothing less than spectacular and in many cases, it was the company's employees (front line staff) who identified the clear advantages.  Throughout the book, Jaynie Smith constantly stresses the need to use quantifiable research and specific benefits – that will matter to your customers.

Of course, if your company has a clear competitive advantage internal or external) your competitors will try to copy it.  So, you must be constantly searching for new clear-cut advantages to stay ahead of your competition – and be sure to tell your customers what you are offering and why it matters to them.  Don't make the 5 fatal flaws!

Once your company has defined their competitive advantage(s) be sure to tell everyone in your company what they are.  Train your staff around your competitive advantage – turn each employee into a first-rate salesperson.  When they believe in your advantage they will enthusiastically tell everyone “why they should do business with your firm rather than with somebody else.”

Any business who wants to learn how to compete rather than constantly lower prices needs to buy this book and put these strategies into practice – today!  Before your competitors do so.

The author maintains a very useful website with a Discover your competitive advantage” interactive worksheet.  Fill it out – the results are quite revealing.  Learn how much money you may be losing by not identifying and articulating your competitive advantage.



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