7 proven ways to stay in the lead
A competitive advantage is hard enough to create; it's even more difficult to keep.
It's inevitable. Once you carve out your uniqueness in the market, the "competitive hordes" see it and copy what they like.
Everyone loves benchmarking the best, so once you step out and lead the pack, expect others to dissect what you've done and pick out their favourite morsel.
There is no preventing this. It's one of the few things in business that CAN be predicted with certainty.
Once you're done your work and created what makes you unique in the market, it's not over. You have to keep your feet moving.
You need to put in motion tactics that will sustain your market position.
Monitor the execution of your strategy monthly
Be obsessed with your performance. Dig into the sales and service numbers. If you fall short, determine exactly why. And then take immediate action to resolve any issue (and monitor that).
Falling short of your objectives could be the beginning of the erosion of your market position, and you need to spot it early on when you have a chance to do something about it.
And be brutal on the assessment of why you fell short; excuses with no action will most surely hasten your demise.
Assess the value you provide
Is your value proposition still relevant ? Are you continuing to address a real compelling need your target customer group has expressed?
Many companies have died by becoming complacent and assuming they continue to be relevant.
They see margins decline and see it as a cost problem. It rarely is. It's a revenue problem — customers are demanding less of their products or services. But they slash and burn costs in their organization and spend no time assessing their relevance.
And they often cut out service and marketing capabilities that are sorely needed to rebound, leaving themselves with little manoeuvring capability.
Create a strong social media presence
Monitor what people are saying about you, what you offer, how you conduct business and whether or not you keep your promises. Invest resources in this activity and give it a high priority.
Your brand performance is always under scrutiny. Millennials and the younger demographic, for example, are quick to criticize you on social media — complete with a video if they can get one — and berate your organization to their followers. Act immediately on any concerns raised over your performance and tweet out what you’ve done.
Test your competitive claim
Evaluate what you believe your current competitive advantage to be; ask both customers and employees for their opinions.
Successful organizations have a clear statement of how they are different than their competitors. They answer the question "Why should I buy from YOU and not your competition?" in a compelling way.
Your positioning statement must meet the test of "Is it relevant?" (does it continue to address the high priority needs of the target group) and "Is it true?" (do you actually do what you claim?).
Get constant feedback on your performance.
Stay close to your main competitors
Their actions in the market are useful in assessing if there are things you need to do to sustain your momentum. Are they changing their competitive strategy? Are they ramping up their activities around your high value customer group?
When I ran our data and internet company, I had a small team of people dedicated to acting like our main competitors and “attacking” us at all times. They would declare an attacking move and we would have to respond with a counter strategy. It was a great way to try and anticipate what our competitors might do to disadvantage us.
Deliver memorable experiences for your customers
Competitive advantage is more about how people FEEL about you than the cleverness and functionality of your product. Organizations that choose to compete on the products they offer soon find themselves in a commodity position where price is the focus — not a good place to be.
Emotional experiences customers have with you produce unforgettable memories which translate into them never wanting the exit door to find someone better. And they tell everyone around them how great you are!
So if you continue to treat your customers as special people deserving of amazing treatment you will likely sustain your competitive position.
Move to “ME” marketing
Review your marketing plans and programs to ensure you are moving inexorably to "ME" and away from flogging products to the masses.
A focus on the individual drives you to create unique solutions for them personally.
Catering to the masses dilutes your customer attention rate and your brand; being heroes for individuals earns you the right to do business with them for a long time.
Keep the move to "ME" going!
Driving your competitive stake in the ground is merely the beginning of a never ending journey of continuous renewal — always changing — never staying the same.
If you can’t stomach continually reinventing yourself be prepared to be taken down.
Roy Osing () is a former President and CMO with over 33 years of leadership experience covering all the major business functions including business strategy, marketing, sales, customer service and people development. He is a blogger, content marketer, educator, coach, adviser and the author of the book series .