Differentiating yourself in a crowded marketplace is the ultimate goal of every business owner, but it’s not something that can be accomplished all at once and then left behind. Like many business processes, it’s an ever-evolving goal that has to be constantly reassessed to suit the current demands of the marketplace. That said, there are overarching principles – as well as some vital current tips for the digital age – that can guide you towards achieving the kind of robust competitive advantage that will sustain your company’s growth.
Establish Yourself as an Authority
It’s been conclusively demonstrated that we tend to defer to the opinion of those we consider to be more knowledgeable than us. A common example is a client readily – even enthusiastically – agreeing to the recommendation of his lawyer, even if it doesn’t square with his instincts.
Sociologists call it expert power, and it can work as a fast track towards legitimacy in the business world. Instead of courting the support of your market peers, position yourself to attract it by asserting yourself as an authority in what you do.
This requires a significant investment on your part, as you’ll need to practice what you preach: studying your field, acquiring degrees, gaining direct experience, and publishing what you learn. It’s no short cut, but once you’ve achieved this status, you’ll find yourself occupying the high ground in all your future business dealings.
Prioritize Customer Engagement
A similarly fruitful long-term strategy is to continue building relationships with customers so your brand becomes memorable.
Fortunately, in the digital age, it’s never been easier to do so. By cultivating contextual data from your customers’ online behavior, you can tailor the experience to suit real, measurable preferences. Most companies are already moving in that direction, with average online ad spends trending ever upward. But there’s reason to believe most businesses are being more conservative than they should be – leaving an opportunity for a competitive advantage you can acquire right now.
Some pioneering brands like Adobe devote as much as three quarters of their marketing budgets to online campaigns precisely for this reason, with the understanding that better targeting ultimately makes for a more engaged customer.
Develop Your Team
There’s a clear and direct corollary between a leader’s ability to build a positive team environment and the level of productivity they will ultimately achieve together. The people in your organization aren’t static; they’re resources that you should be developing over time. Dedicating yourself to cultivating your team will mean building a company that works better and better as the years go by, effectively nosing you ahead of businesses that are either newer or less progressive when it comes to their personnel. Value the people who work for you, allow them to grow and become better at what they do, and you’ll find yourself developing a growing – and sustainable – lead over the competition.
About the Author: Jeremy Sanders
Jeremy is the co-founder and VP of Finance and Operations at Ideator, a place where you can go from idea to business plan to launch. He is a consistent contributor to corporate growth and profitability. He is a strategic financial and operations management executive with broad experience founding, developing, and strengthening both businesses and non-profit organizations.
‘The Bases of Social Power’
‘The Comparative Influence of Majority and Expert Opinion’
‘How to Use Data to Create Content That Deepens Customer Relationships’
‘Online Ad Spending Tops 100 Billion’
‘Digital Marketing’s True Believer’
‘Leaders’ Effectiveness in Building a Positive Team Environment’
‘Team Building for Competitive Advantage’