Can you articulate what your competitive advantages are?
If so, congratulations — only a small fraction of CEOs are actually able to provide a clear answer, so the good news is you’re well ahead of the curve. The bad news is that unless you’ve conducted market research, there’s no guarantee that what you’re singling out actually matters to your customer.
You may have the best customer service in your industry, but if that isn’t a big concern for your customer, it obviously shouldn’t be the major focus of your competitive messaging. After all, it’s not your customers’ job to care about what you do well, it’s your job to find out what they do care about, and to use that information to craft messages that speak to those concerns.
The only way to find out what really matters to your customers and prospects while they are making purchasing decisions is to survey them. Using an independent research firm will enable you to remain objective, but it can be expensive. To help control costs, you can design the survey or interview yourself and have the outside firm execute the study, which can be conducted over the phone or via e-mail.
Going through the process of identifying your competitive advantages, conducting research to see how customers and prospects rate those advantages in terms of importance, and crafting competitive messages based on your findings will help you in a variety of ways. It will enable you to:
- Understand exactly what your target prospects care about.You’ll find out what your target prospects want by hypothesizing important purchase criteria and then testing them until you get them right.
- Improve your sales and marketing productivity.Using the right messages gives you the opportunity to differentiate your company from the competition in a succinct and meaningful way, making your products and services easier to market and sell.
- Measure how well you are communicating your value proposition to improve your messaging over time. If you perform this practice regularly (e.g., annually), you’ll be able to measure and adjust your messages as the market changes.
Prospect and customer research will also help you:
- Understand how your company matches up against the competition, which will help your product development efforts.
- Gauge the brand awareness of your company and its products vis a vis your competitors in the marketplace,which will help youadjust the marketing and influence channels you’re using to reach your market targets.
- Understand the effects that your current marketing efforts have on the perception of your company and its products in the minds of your target prospects, which will help your overall communication efforts.
Identifying your company’s competitive advantage is a surefire way to close deals, retain clients, and stay miles ahead of the competition, but only if there is a direct connection between your messaging and your customers’ priorities.
Remember that staying in-tune with your competitive messages will be an ongoing process for your organization. Staying focused on your customers’ and prospects’ buying criteria, and routinely aligning your entire organization around them, will be key.