• November 1, 2006
  • By Colin Beasty, (former) Associate Editor, CRM Magazine

Required Reading: What's Your Competitive Advantage?

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Whether you're a retailer, manufacturer, distributor, or service provider, if you can't answer the question of why customers should do business with you and not a competitor, chances are you're losing customers, clients, and market share. According to author Jaynie Smith in her new book, Creating Competitive Advantage, companies are failing to identify what their competitive advantages are so they can close more deals, retain clients, and stay miles ahead of the competition. CRM
magazine's Colin Beasty spoke with Smith about the book. CRM magazine: What is a competitive advantage? Smith: When I think of the term competitive advantage, I think of the question, Why us? Most companies think their strengths are their competitive advantages, but strengths are not competitive advantages. In most cases, strengths are givens. A company must have them just to be competitive, but they don't make you stand out to the customer. A competitive advantage is what you do different from and/or better than the competition. It's that service, product, or something that makes the customer want to give you his or her money because price is no longer a differentiator. CRM magazine: How can a company recognize its competitive advantage? Smith: Most companies have competitive advantages that they're not even aware of. The first step is to list all the company's deliverables. A deliverable is from the minute you have a customer ring your phone or walk into your store, every step along the way that a customer encounters, that's a deliverable. A company needs to identify them. Most companies focus on their products or services, and not the deliverables, such as on-time delivery or average response time. Nearly all the time, a number of those deliverables are a competitive advantage. CRM magazine: What will readers find most interesting about your book? Smith: A fact I state in the beginning of the book. I surveyed more than 1,000 CEOs and asked them to identify their company's biggest competitive advantage. About 10 could answer the question. The other point readers will find interesting is companies can't be customer focused if they don't do market research. Most companies have never done market research, or only do it every five years. If you're not asking the customers their unbiased opinions of the company at least twice a year, you're not doing enough. Other Page Turners:
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