Comparisons help contrast two things, bringing out differences and showing how each is special. Why does this matter for businesses? Without bringing out the differences between you and your competition, your understanding of the difference will be mushy. And it’s hard to explain to others an idea that is mushy in your own mind. The mushiness comes from two places: your inability to call things what they are, and your lack of information. In other words, you will struggle to differentiate your brand from your competition. This process helps you deal with both: we focus only on the information you can know, and we analyze it in a way that forces us to make decisions and distinctions.
Here’s how we’ll do it.
Step 1: Write a SWOT Analysis
First, organize what you know. Don’t let lack of information stop you: You don’t have inside info, so look at the outside:
- What does your competition say?
- How do they present themselves? Describe their messaging, creative, and positioning efforts.
- What actions are they taking?
- How do people feel about them? What do their customers say about them publicly?
After collecting this information, turn to your own business. Write down the following:
- Detail your operational strengths as an organization. How are you able to serve your customers well?
- What are your weaknesses? What about your company gets in the way of serving your customers?
- Describe your opportunities. Are there obvious opportunities out there in the market? What makes them such a good fit, given your strengths and weaknesses?
- What are the threats to your success?
- Market factors, like the economy.
- Indirect competition, like replacements for what you do.
- Direct competitors, who do the exact same thing you do. This is what we’ll focus on in the next step.
For a more complete treatment of the SWOT, check out this article.
Step 2: Review threats and your strengths
Compare Yourself to Them
Here’s where you really draw distinctions. Write down why you think this other company is a threat. What is it good at that makes it competitive to you? How do you compare favorably? How do they nullify your strengths by being better in that area? This last one is huge because it requires honesty. You have to admit that this other company is better than you at something you think you’re good at. Worry about how you’ll overcome them some other day. Today is a day for honesty.
A good example: Let’s say you listed customer service as a strength, but another company has a better reputation for customer service. Be honest and realize that you can’t compete on that alone.
Test Your List (Eliminate and Develop)
Now, come up with all the strengths you have remaining, after you’ve eliminated some. Is there something you listed, like the ability to deliver reliably, that your competition has trouble with? Maybe that’s your big difference.
Also, before we leave customer service off the table, let’s also think about what we mean by customer service. Your competition may have great scores in an area like that. But if you can deliver unique value, you might be able to cut them off.
For instance, let’s say they lean on great customer service scores in surveys and they plaster it all over in their advertising. But even with that, you know they have wait times. And you don’t. This could be an easy way to differentiate your brand. So if customer service is so valuable to your market, you could advertise zero hold times, offering a more-specific and believable promise.
Be careful though. If they own customer service, it can be tricky to win it from them. Make sure it’s worth the investment.
Step 3: How do your comparative strengths differentiate your brand?
Let’s review: Comparative advantage is the measure in B2B, not absolute advantage. There’s a difference.
- Absolute advantage is where you’re better than everyone else (in your market).
- Comparative advantage is where you have a lower opportunity cost.
A great example: let’s say Michael Jordan is the fastest typist in the world. Agnes Jones is the second-fastest typist. So Michael Jordan should be a typist, right? Wrong.
Even though MJ has an absolute advantage in typing, he made so much money playing basketball, it makes no sense for him to switch to typing. In other words, his opportunity cost is too high.
Agnes, on the other hand, may have no skill that’s as valuable as typing, and, therefore, has a comparative advantage in typing, even if MJ is faster.
Now, apply it to business
The same thing applies to business. In finding out on what grounds to compete with competition…
“To find people’s comparative advantages, do not compare their absolute advantages. Compare their opportunity costs.” -Lauren F. Landsburg
What kinds of things can you offer that only you can be the best at? If someone’s better at that than you, and they compete with you, find another thing to be competitive at.
Build on them.
- Can you shift and optimize a suite of products/services to bring out those strengths?
- How do these strengths help you best live out your values?
- How do these strengths help determine how you speak about yourself…the brand personality you show daily in everything you communicate?
Brand values, personality, and the processes that make them work.
Now you know your values, brand personality, and the skills that make you compare well with your competition. Develop processes that magnify those strengths. Create communication that sells the customer’s benefit from your strengths. Create brand messaging that magnifies them.
Build around your values, personality, and actual abilities, and you’ll find a long-term platform to grow on and that will never fail you. In other words, you’ll uncover the way to differentiate your brand from even your strongest competition.
Understand your competition and why that matters with this post from Mike.
If you’re wanting to dive deeper, consider signing up for our upcoming Brand Roundtable Chats. Our goal with these conversations is to dig into your brand issues and connect you with like-minded peers in the marketing and business space. Our CEO Mike Jones serves as the facilitator in these conversations, drawing on years of experience operating a creative branding agency in the Phoenix area. If you’re working on improving your branding chops, you won’t want to miss these hour-long discussions.