We all know someone with what seems to be an unfair advantage. The unnaturally tall kid on the high school basketball team. The math wiz who can solve complex problems in her head. The sales guy who can turn cordial conversations into record breaking sales.
Whether these skills come from a natural predisposition or have been developed through training is often debated. What truly matters, though, is that some individuals have these advantages and these advantages put them light years ahead of their competition.
The same gap can exist in business, too.
There are many types of unfair advantages that businesses can have. It might be access to information or data that others in their industry don’t have. It might be years of being established, resulting in an unprecedented reputation or a team of renowned experts. An innovative or lean business structure can do the trick. Maybe it’s as simple as a strong community of partners, resources, and customers.
When it comes to those companies that leverage their unfair advantage, though, they all have one thing in common—their uncompromising obsession with this unfair advantage and the ability of this advantage to set them apart.
The well-kept secret about unfair advantages is that every business can have one if they put in the effort to identify it.
Honing in on Your Unfair Advantage
Identifying your unfair advantage is something like working with a diamond in the rough. It doesn’t need to be created, necessarily. It’s there already, wanting to shine, but it needs to be worked with, dug into, polished, and put on display before it can be of any value. The metaphor goes deeper than that, though–it’s also similar to the idea of a diamond in the rough because your unfair advantage, like a diamond, something that already exists naturally ‘within’ or underneath the rough. Unless you’re totally starting from scratch and building a new business, chances are you already have an unfair advantage that exists within your business, but you need to take some time to both locate it and determine how to leverage it.
Like the diamond in the rough, though, it may be difficult to see the value at first. Perhaps you’re so used to your unfair advantage you neglect to even realize it’s special. Or maybe you know what makes your business special, but you haven’t determined how to utilize that advantage. There are ways to take off your blinders, though, and take a fresh look at what it is that truly sets your business apart.
One tactic suggested by Inc. is the 20 Minute Business Model, which should cut down on distractions and help you highlight what’s important right off the bat. By forcing yourself and your team to make quick decisions about what your strong points are, you’re left without the ability to overcomplicate or muddle your unfair advantage.
And it’s true that your unfair advantage should be clear cut and almost simplistic at its core. Still, when trying to leverage your entire business operations and marketing efforts off of a few areas of expertise or assets, you’re going to need more than 20 minutes. Start with 20 minutes to give you a head start and a fresh perspective, then follow these steps:
- Sharpen Your Mission
If you don’t have a mission, create one. According to Simon Sinek, great leaders like don’t sell products, they sell ideas. For your unfair advantage to have a significant impact, you’ll have to follow suit and make sure it’s aligned with your larger purpose as an organization.
- Set Business Goals
Consider where your business is now, where you want to be in a few years, and what will get you there. Then consider what aspects of your business have the capability to get you there. After deciding all of this, you can hone in on what type of person, or what audience, will lead you to those goals.
- Conduct Audience Research
Audience research should allow you to see who is out there that cares about your organization, where they are, and what they’re talking about. While this may seem like a purely marketing related activity, your most loyal advocates typically come naturally from the advantages you have built-in to your company. So, the challenge isn’t necessarily building an audience, it’s unlocking the potential of your audience by identifying what it is that you do that speaks to them and how to maximize that.
Once you’ve done your audience research, the next step is narrowing in on who your audience is on an individual basis and how you want to talk to them–as well as how they want to be talked to. Identify themes in the data you gathered during audience research and do some self-reflection as to what this tells you about your brand.
The themes you identify should reveal your strong areas and your weak areas and they should reveal how you can best use your strong areas to your advantage in both your communications and business strategies.
Multiplying the Impact of Your Marketing
Ultimately, a well-defined and properly utilized unfair advantage eliminates distractions for your organization, your marketing team, and your audience. Working around an unfair advantage, your organization knows exactly what they need to focus on and continue improving upon. Your marketing team knows exactly what products or services to focus on and what exactly it is about those products or services that benefits your audience so much. Finally, and most importantly, your audience will know exactly who you are, what you’re about, and how that serves them.
Along these same lines, leveraging your unfair advantage in your marketing efforts will function as both an attractor and a repellant–both of which are vital and underappreciated in marketing. Too often marketers find themselves trying to communicate every possible advantage of their business in order to attract every possible and potential customer. This may sound good in theory, but attracting the right people and repelling the wrong people will do much more to form a genuine, unique connection with those you attract. This strong bond could lead to any number of advantages, including repeat buyers, loyal clients, and brand advocates.
The purpose of an unfair advantage is to establish a distinction that cannot be copied. In other words, its purpose is to differentiate. Everything—including processes, products, and services—can be replicated and likely has been. Your unfair advantage, though, is something that will set you apart, speak to your target audience, and cannot be duplicated.
Did you like this post? Let us know why (or why not) in the comments. In the meantime, check out our blog Punch Above Your Weight: Why Digital Favors David, Not Goliath to discover how identifying your unfair advantage is key to operating above capacity.