Quickly: if I were to ask you to answer the question, "Why should anyone (meaning a potential customer) use your business over any and every other business in your market space?" what would you say?
Secondly, what would your customers say?
Thirdly, is your answer quantifiable?
And finally, when was the last time you updated your competitive advantage?
If you’re like most small business owners, your answers are probably, "Not sure." "Don’t know." "No." And "Have no clue."
Well, you’re not alone. I just finished listening to a web presentation by Jaynie Smith on competitive advantage through the American Management Association‘s Thinker series of webcasts. Jaynie did a great job, but my favorite line was from her interview with David Neeleman, Founder and Chairman of Jet Blue.
"Once a week we ask ourselves three questions.
- What do we do better than them?
- What do they do better than us?
- How can we do that better than them?"
What a great list! Now, most of us aren’t in as competitive an environment as an airline, so we may not need to ask those questions every week, but certainly we ought to be asking them every month and undoubtedly every quarter (a year is simply too long and infrequent, let alone a decade :-).
So when was the last time you reviewed and updated your competitive advantage? Is it quantifiable? Believable? And compelling? Will it cause potential customers to say, "I have to use XYZ because of [insert your competitive advantage]." If you don’t have a compelling answer to the question of, "Why should I choose to use your business?" then start working on it. After that, write down this quote from David Neeleman. And finally, make sure you ask those three questions every month.
Note: These are not the only questions to ask regularly. For example, a great strategic question to ask each month would be, "What is no one else doing that we ought to be doing?" which gets you away from merely competing with your competitors.