Select Your Best Competitive Position To Win

Bill Stinnett

  1. Best Quality Provider. We provide the highest quality products in the market place. Ours have the fewest flaws, fewest defects, fewest mistakes, and highest quality solution. If that matters to the client and we can prove that we provide better quality than what our competitor provides, that gives us a strategic advantage that hopefully will attract the customer to us rather than to the competitor.
  2. Most Innovative Products. We’re the absolute latest, greatest, most-cutting edge solution in the marketplace. If we want to take up that position we need to be able to defend that position, but it’s a great one for customers who are looking for the latest and greatest. All this needs to be predicated on, of course, what the customer’s perception is. I like to start by asking a few key questions to the customer. How will you select a partner to work with on this project? I’m sure there area lot of different things that matter, and no doubt price is going to be a factor—I always like to put that on the table that price is going to matter—but let’s just lay that aside for a minute, what are the other characteristics that may be important to you in selecting a partner to work with? The answer to this question is going to help us determine whether we want to be the best quality, the most innovative, customer-focused.
  3. Customer-Focused. We understand our customers better, we’re a highly responsive, customer-oriented organization, we have a strong support team, we have individual reps assigned to accounts as opposed to a pool of people answering the phone so you have a number and a name to relate to. Maybe that’s what your customer really needs.
  4. Simple and Easy. We’re a company that is easy to work with. We offer the least hassle; we make your life easier. Personally,I’ve made a lot of money on that one. Customers really like it when they don’t have to hassle with arguing with their vendor over nit-picky things, when they don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time thy want to engage with them again. Being the vendor that’s easy to work with, the one that takes care of a lot of things for them, and thinks through and helps them avoid time-consuming snags along the way, can be a very attractive position.
  5. Technology Leader. We’re on the cutting edge of science and technology. This is going to be important for the client who really values that, if they want to be the technology leader in their market. They might want to partner with a supplier who can provide them with the latest technology that they can then turn around and use as a competitive position in their market. If I provide, let’s say, test equipment, and that test equipment is the every latest and greatest and can do testing at a more granular level than any of my competitors, then my clients can turn around and say we have the latest and greatest. It’s a strategic advantage for us that becomes a strategic advantage for them as well.
  6. Low Risk. As years go on I become more appreciative of how important this is to customers. Being the low risk solution means having the least chance of embarrassing them, the least chance of things going wrong and costing them money.When we look at value and risk on a scale and have the customer investment on one side and value on the other, one thing that increases the value is to minimize risk. As I’ve learned along the way, sometimes your customers can’t tell the difference between you and your competitors and when that happens they usually decide to go with the least risky solution. In some cases, we want to position ourselves as the low risk vendor. What makes us low risk could be our knowledge of their industry, our position in the market, our longevity and financial strength, the fact that we have people on our team that know some things that they need to know, it could have something to do with how we support our service after the sale. Think about how you can lower the perceived risk in your customer’s mind to increase the value, sometimes that can be a phenomenal competitive position.
  1. Low Cost. Some people find this to be a great competitive position although I’ve never liked it much. Very few companies can be profitable and successful being the lowest cost. If that’s something you can do and you can win business in this way, then that’s great. The only problem with this as a competitive position is that all your competitor has to do is lower their prices to match or undercut yours and they take away your competitive advantage. So be careful with the lowest cost one because someone else can take that away any time by simply lowering their price.
  2. Partnering Approach. Our competitive position is that we partner with our customers. Partnering might have to do with sharing knowledge and experience we have in their industry, it might have to do with helping them attract, better service, and retain their customers. When we go to work with them, when we help them grow their business, maintain their client base, improve their customer service, go beyond just the relationship between us and our customers and instead think about the relationship between us and our customer’s customer, that’s an interesting approach for many of our prospective clients. The partnering approach can really make you stand apart and differentiate you.

These are just a few competitive positions we could take up. The best position all depends on how you can win. We have to know what the customer’s perception is, what they value and think is important, and we have to know who we’re competing against. I might want to be the low cost leader, but if I know for a fact that I’m competing against someone who historically is wiling to be cheaper then that won’t be an effective position for me. I might want to be the simple and easy vendor, but if I know for a fact that we are a little more cumbersome than someone else then that’s not the way to win. Select the competitive position where you can win based on your strengths, based on weaknesses you can leverage against your competitors, but most importantly based on what matters to the customer.

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