“Be you. Everyone else is taken.” – Oscar Wilde
You are unique. Your business is unique. I don’t care if you own a bakery and there are twenty other bakeries on your block. There is something about you and your brand that is different from all the rest.
What is it? Well, you have to figure that out. And once you do figure it out, you’re going to use that one defining trait that sets you apart from your competitors to your advantage. Find your competitive edge and then capitalize on it.
There’s actually a simple process to unearthing your competitive edge. It’s just a matter of WHO, WHAT and HOW.
Step #1: Re-discover WHO you really are.
The first thing you need to do is to have a brainstorming session to figure out who you really are as a business. You can do this alone or with a team of employees. (It’s probably a good idea to do both!)
Sit down, take out a piece of paper (or a whiteboard) and write out all the reasons you went into business in the first place. Did you start a pet grooming business because you love animals? Did you become a personal trainer because you want to help people become fit and healthy?
It doesn’t matter if you’ve been in business for a decade or a day. It’s always a good idea to return to your starting point in order to get your bearings. No matter how much we love our jobs (especially if we’ve started our own business), there are still going to be those days where we just wish we could win the lottery so we wouldn’t have to work anymore. Reminding yourself on a regular basis why you do what you do is a great exercise for rekindling your passion and purpose. And it’s the first step to uncovering your true uniqueness.
Step #2: Determine HOW you are different from your competitors.
Now that you remember who YOU are, it’s time to go find out who your competitors are. You’ll need to become somewhat of a “secret shopper.” (Notice, I said “shopper” and not “stalker” …there is a fine line.)
Make a list of at least five competing businesses in your area and then set out to do some reconnaissance work. Visit each store as a customer and take note of every single detail…location, signage, store hours, staffing, product stock, marketing materials, customer profiles, etc. Look online at their website, social media accounts and advertising campaigns. Your goal is to learn everything you possibly can about the competition.
After you’ve collected all of your research, you’ll use it to develop a proper competitive analysis. What things are you, as a business, already doing differently? What things are you doing the same that you could change and do in a new & unique way? Put a lot of thought and effort into this step, as it will serve to stoke the campfire of creativity when it comes to marketing your business.
Step #3: Communicate HOW you are different (and better!) than the competition.
Now you know who you are. Now you know who your competitors are. And now you know how you’re different. You’ve found your competitive edge.
It’s time to shout that competitive edge from the rooftops. Okay, maybe not from the rooftop, but how about in the form of a newly revamped Mission Statement?
Every business should have a mission statement. And every employee should know it by heart. Your mission statement should reflect both the passion & purpose that you rekindled during your brainstorming session and also explain how you are different from your competitors.
An example could be as simple as this:
We are The Best Little Cat House in Texas. We love cats.
We will love your cat for you when you are out of town.
We’re different from other catteries because we create our own healthy organic cat food for your cat to eat while staying with us. We also offer our organic cat food for purchase. Because, we don’t just want to keep your cat company while you’re away. We want to keep your cat healthy.
Did we mention that we love cats?
Post your mission statement somewhere highly visible so that all your employees and customers can see it. Have it printed on receipts and displayed on your website. Your mission statement is ground zero for your brand. It’s where everything begins. Plus, it’s a daily reminder of why you do what you do and how you do it better than anyone else.
Just remember, your competitive edge is a living, breathing thing. It will grow and change as your business grows and changes. Repeating these steps on an annual basis will ensure that you continue to keep a leg up on the competition.
About the Author
Sydney Stone is a freelance writer and editor of the popular fashion blog Stylaphile. She has written several pieces for various startup and B2B technology companies and has published two collections of ten-minute plays by up-and-coming playwrights entitled Stage This! Sydney is also a content marketing specialist with extensive experience managing Marketo and Pardot automated marketing programs.Follow on Twitter More Content by Sydney Stone