Developing your competitive advantage

Developing your competitive advantage

The inimitable Seth Godin, marketer extraordinaire, shared his thoughts on competitive advantage today in a way that resonated with me. Competitive advantage is another way of discussing the value proposition.

In a nutshell, the competitive advantage is that aspect of your offer that stands you apart from the competition. As Godin explains, the particular elements that create a customer decision vary considerably—do I value experience over youthfulness, quality over price, colour over texture? There are millions of small decisions going on in our brains that feed into the larger decision that informs the final sale. Why did I pick this soft drink over that one? Chances are the answer could be different to what some marketers would hope.

This is why I always advocate a defined value proposition—a way of distinguishing your offer from the competition to hopefully make the decision easier within your target market. This does mean going after a particular market instead of trying to catch everyone in your net.

I cite M&Ms a lot when talking about value propositions as I think they epitomise this strategy extremely well. “The milk chocolate that melts in your mouth, not in your hand” clearly speaks to a certain target audience. Who values a non-messy chocolate more than others? I would guess parents, particularly of toddlers. When giving a sweet treat to a child, do you want to clean smeared chocolate handprints off clothing and furniture afterwards? Adults are usually more adept at avoiding sticky chocolate and rarely need someone to wipe around their face with a Wet One.

Therefore, instead of trying to win the consumer race of tastiest chocolate against thousands of other chocolaty confections, M&Ms are trying to win the race of parent-friendly chocolate with far better odds of cut-through.

This principle doesn’t only apply to chocolate. It isn’t even restricted to commercial business. If you are a blogger, you are competing for audience share with every other blog out there. So what is your competitive advantage within your niche? If you are a blog about writing (just to pluck a topic out of the air) what separates you from the hundreds – nay thousands – of other amateur and professional blogs? I know we bloggers rely strongly on networking and goodwill to boost traffic, but wouldn’t it be better if the content was sufficiently different to prompt the reader to hit the subscribe button?

What’s your competitive advantage?