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working on YOUR competive edge

People are fickle, but we’re generally rational. When someone makes a choice (hiring, firing, choosing a vendor, buying a soda) they’re using some sort of internal logic and reasoning to support that choice.

As a marketer, you win when they choose you.

So, why choose you?

The answer to that question is your competitive advantage. What makes it likely that more than a few rational people will consider their options and choose you or your company or your organization?

Truth: It’s rarely a computerized cost/benefit analysis. Instead, it’s a human choice.

When the factors that matter to me are processed through my worldview and compared against the options I’m aware of, I will choose you when your advantages are greater than the competition, provided I believe that you’re worth the cost of switching.

Key points:

Matter to me: Not matter to you or to the next guy, but matter to me. That’s all I care about. (Example: it might mean more to me that my friends use your product than it does that you’re cheaper).

Worldview: Based on the way I see the world, the assumptions I make, the truth that I believe in. (Example: If I don’t trust young people as a matter of course, I’m not likely to choose you if you’re young, all other things being close).

Options I’m aware of: If I don’t know about you, you don’t exist.

Switching cost: The incumbent gets a huge advantage, especially in high cost/high risk/network effect instances.

Some of the ways you might build or maintain a competitive advantage:

* Access to hard-to-replicate Talent
* Hard-earned skills
* Higher productivity due to insight or organization allowing you to be cheaper
* Low cost of living for you and your staff allowing you to be cheaper
* Protected or secret technology or trade secrets
* Existing relationships (switching costs working in your favor)
* Virally organized product and organization
* Large network of users already and a network effect to support you
* Focus on speed
* Monopoly power and the willingness to use it
* Unique story that resonates with the worldview of your target audience
* Shelf space due to incumbency
* Large media budget
* Insight into worldview of prospects–making what they care about
* Emotional intelligence of your salesforce or customer service people
* Access to capital and willingness to lose money to build share
* Connection to community

Not on this list, at least not prominently, are “we are #1!”, “we are better!” and “we try harder.” Cheerleading skills are not a competitive advantage in most settings. And, with few exceptions, neither is “we are new.” Also, “we are better and I can prove it,” is rarely a successful argument.

Here’s what your board wants to know:

* What’s your competitive advantage?
* Is it really, or are you dreaming it up?
* How long will it last?
* Can your competition copy it?
* Does it resonate with the part of the market that is looking to buy?
* Is the advantage big enough to overcome the switching cost?

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