Regardless of what your position is in your industry, or what industry you operate in, every organization needs to craft and refine their unfair advantage. In order to maintain a competitive edge, as well as attract (and retain) as many customers as possible, there has to be a reason as to why customers would choose your product or service over that of your competitors.
About six months ago, I had a wonderful opportunity to speak at a global trade organization in Puerto Rico at their annual conference. This organization is comprised of many engaged members, largely small and mid-sized business owners, many of whom started their businesses, and compete in an extremely competitive marketplace. Like many organizations, their customers range from extremely discerning and focused on high quality and service, to others who are highly price sensitive and view their services purely as a commodity.
So we titled this speech/workshop as “Defining Your Unfair Advantage” but it’s really about trying to answer a tough question: What is truly unique about your organization?
As background, TSI (www.transforming.com) is a growing consulting firm and like all companies that grow, at one point in our company’s life cycle, we were hitting a plateau. So a few years back, we put a small advisory group – consisting of a few people both in and outside of the consulting industry.
One of our advisors asked me a basic, yet poignant question. He asked, “Dan, what is TSI’s Unfair Advantage?”. In other words, what are the most compelling 1-2 things that you do or you know that completely differentiates you?
So I began going through our services (albeit somewhat generically) – helping to improve a company’s efficiency…help them select technology to run their business more effectively. And one of my advisors replied “Dan all kinds of companies do that”.
I’ll come back to TSI’s story in a minute, but the real point of this article is about you and your organization.
Understanding Your Unfair Advantage
If I was to ask you, “what is your company’s unfair advantage?”, how easy or hard would it be for you to come up with something unique? Let me put you at ease – this is normal and it’s something that, just like we did, can be overcome by a little focused thought and work.
Keep in mind the following – a real unfair advantage has the following characteristics:
- Takes investment to define/try/refine;
- Can and should change over time;
- A well-defined and real unfair advantage is one that cannot easily be copied or bought. In other words, it truly creates an unfair advantage for your organization;
- Will likely require you to increase your performance (that may include process, technology or people) in meaningful ways AND includes how articulate your employees are at describing your organization.
Here are 4 great questions you can ponder to get started:
- What is your organization really good at?
- How does that compare to what your customers want/need?
- What are your competitors good at and how does that compare to what you are good at, specifically in the context of what your customers want or need?
- In parallel, think about this from a customer’s standpoint; are there other alternatives than what they have? This may include choosing not to do the work.
Ultimately this way of thinking is looking at the Value Proposition of your organization doing work that is perceived to be of value – this is the heart of your company’s service offering. Regardless of what industry you operate in, if any one of these dimensions is out of whack, then your business model is out of alignment.
Important Factors of Your Unfair Advantage (UA):
So now the “nickel question” is, how can you move from defining your value proposition to carving out your organization’s Unfair Advantage? That is definitely a great question. At TSI, we see the UA as a function of:
Quality x Originality x Service x Convenience x Price
Therefore, in the context of your target customer segment(s) and your service offering, define the following (this is a great “homework” assignment):
- Quality – what is the quality of what you deliver? What should it be?
- Originality – how unique or different is what you offer compared to your competitors?
- Service – how do you deliver – are you punctual, polite, understandable? Also consider how comfortable your customers are working with you. Think of this as a sort of user interface for your customers.
- Convenience – how accessible are you? This can be defined by location, or your relationship to your customers.
- Price – how much do you charge and how do you charge it?
As you can probably guess, these questions are appropriate for those of you who might lead a department, such as; IT, Finance, HR, Admissions, or any other function. How are you branding that service? How should you and what will it take for you to live that brand?
TSI is a leading consulting firm based in the Chicago area. We help our clients to transform; this includes the work to define key strategies and then bring them to life.
For more information on TSI’s transformation expertise, click here – http://transforming.com/services/business-transformation/
You can request more information about our service offerings by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. To speak with Dan Feely, TSI’s Managing Partner, you can reach him at 847-705-0960 x202, or via email at email@example.com.