Friday, October 26, 2012

Define Your Competitive Advantage

Define Your Competitive Advantage
You have thirty seconds. Go!

Have you ever attended one of those speed networking events? According to Wikipedia, the online authority on everything, “The practice involves multiple people that gather in a single space in order to exchange information. Participants greet each other in a series of brief exchanges during a set period of time.” While I’ve never participated in such an event, I’ve taken an idea from the format that serves Brand Acceleration clients very well. I’ll ask them to imagine they are face-to-face with a prospective client and then give me their elevator pitch in thirty seconds or less. I ask them to think hard because time is limited and every word must count. Wow! The result is often an agonizing, poorly thought out, rambling of indecipherable gibberish. Then, they’ll say something like, “This is hard, Jim. I’ve never had to do this before.” Really?

At this point, the first thing that many people want to do is consider how their company or community stacks up against the competition. “We’re better than them because…..” Wrong answer! Forget the competition. It’s not about them. It’s about the prospective customer. When you are face to face with a prospect, your every thought should be, “Who is this person and what does he or she want to hear from me?”

At Brand Acceleration, when we first meet with a prospective client, the first thing we want to discuss is their customers and prospects. In the case of an economic developer, we want to know about their target industries and why they feel their community is a good fit for them. We’re looking for evidence that such items as workforce skills, proximity to markets, transportation networks, available resources, and other factors have been very seriously considered.

For our AEC (architecture, engineering, and construction) prospects, we discuss such topics as their understanding of the building’s end user, their unique experience in designing and building sustainable buildings, working within a working hospital or university, etc.

If the community or company cannot clearly define its competitive advantage, it may be engaging in nothing more than wishful thinking. Several years ago, while working at another agency, one of my clients dubbed me “Mr. Why” because no matter what he told me about his company, I would ask him why that was important to the customers. By repeatedly asking this question, I gently forced their team to carefully consider what was clearly a competitive advantage and what was just promotional talk.

Once, when I was in the radio network business, the gentleman who was responsible for our on-air product placed a large sign in front of the microphone in every broadcast studio. In big letters, it said “WHOGAS?” It was his way of reminding the news people that every word uttered should provide benefit to the listeners. No fluff. No worthless drivel. Every word mattered. WHOGAS? is an acronym for “Who Gives A Sh**?”

In a recent article in Inc. Magazine, a writer quoted Harvard marketing professor Theodore Levitt: “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter inch hole.” So, marketers, rather than thinking about the features and benefits of your drill, consider the hole.

So, here’s a simple assignment: Find a quiet place where you can be alone and uninterrupted. Turn off your phone. Ask yourself these questions: 1) For which customers is my company or community the perfect fit? Why? Be specific. 2) If I were the prospective customer, across the table from me, what would I want to hear? No features and benefits, here. Consider the hole. 3) Write your 30-second elevator pitch. Practice it. Memorize it. Make every word count.

This exercise, done right, will impact everything you do. It should be reflected in your web site, ads, brochures, staffing decisions, and everything else that defines your community or company marketing efforts. 

I’d love to hear from you, too. Feel free to share your thoughts and personal experiences below.

Have a great week,

Jim Walton
Brand Acceleration, Inc.
Branding // Marketing Communications // Public Relations
Indianapolis: 317.536.6255
Charlotte: 704:230:0394
Atlanta: 404.474.7980
Fax: 317.222.1425
Cell: 317.523.7380

Brand Acceleration is a full-service marketing communications, brand management and public relations firm with a focus on economic development, architecture, engineering and construction.






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