For Apple, it’s innovative products. For Maytag, it’s a brand you know and trust. And for FedEx, it’s speedy service. What’s your small business’ it factor? That’s your competitive advantage—the thing that you do better than your competition. Knowing the answer to that question can help you focus on the thing that will make you stand out. Here are some ways to identify your competitive advantage so you can tell customers why they should choose your small business.
Your competitive advantage might be the products you offer, your service, the guarantee you provide, or your location. Consider these ideas to help uncover what makes your business special:
- Identify the Problem First – Start by asking how your product or service helps to solve a problem your customer is having. That will uncover the “what’s in it for me” question prospects ask when deciding whether to do business with a company. If you have a better solution than your competition has, you may have identified your competitive advantage.
- Become a Secret Shopper – Do some field research by shopping at your competitor’s business. Observe what they offer and what the customer experience is like. Ask yourself what aspects you do better. Or could you change something in your business that the other company can’t match? Be sure that you can sustain the change before implementing it.
- Talk with Your Target – Ask members of your target market what makes you or your competition special. One way to do that is to engage customers in conversation through social media like your Facebook page or Twitter account. Another method is to conduct a survey. Survey Monkey [Link 1] is one company that offers a free online survey service.
- Look at the How – Don’t just look at what you provide to customers but how you provide it. Service can be the thing that makes you unique, but it’s often overlooked when trying to identify your advantage. Perhaps you are a craft store that can special order an item you don’t carry. Or you’re a restaurant that is open on Sunday evenings.
- Call in the SWOT Team – Business schools teach this technique [Link 2] to help businesses plan better. It stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Identifying these helps you better understand the environment in which you operate. For example, if your business is pet-friendly, you might have an advantage over a new competitor who isn’t.
Knowing what makes your business special can help you differentiate your brand from competitors. It helps your customers determine why you should be their go-to choice for the products and services you offer.