(dis) Advantages

One of the most difficult things to do is put yourself in the shoes of a customer.

The customer wants to know one thing: “What’s in it for me?”

You have only a few seconds, if that, to feed relevant data into the mind of a potential customer. The subconscious will immediately determine if the information is something they should pay closer attention to or delete and ignore.

There’s typically a disconnect between the things owners want to brag about and shout to the world and the things that inspire potential customers to become long-term clients. OR the hard truth is a business has no advantages over the competition, or at least none they can think of.

In either case, this is where you’ll see the chest pounding mantras that are meaningless to the consumer.

Any of these sound familiar?

• Committed to providing our customers with the best (fill in your service here)
• We Carry The Best (products) At Surprisingly Affordable Prices!
• We’re Passionate About (product or service)
• We do amazing (product or service)!
• Avoid the Hassle and Confusion, Hire a Quality (service provider)
• We’ll Save You Time and Money
• #1 in Customer Service
• Huge Inventory
• We are 50 years old and family owned
• We Use Only The Best Ingredients
• Your Satisfaction is Guaranteed!
• Customer Is Always #1
• The Majority of Our Business Is Referred By Other Satisfied Customers

No one cares.

The customer wants to know “What’s in it for me?” What’s the competitive advantage and, more importantly, how does it help me?

Satisfaction BETTER BE guaranteed. You BETTER BE using great ingredients. You BETTER have the inventory I need. You BETTER BE committed to customer satisfaction.

It’s expected. This is required just to step foot in the game.

Here are two examples of competitive advantage statements. Both represent companies in the same industry.

Marketing themes: Set 1

  • We have amazing service
  • We have a ton of inventory
  • We love our customers and deliver a great experience
  • We sell a wide assortment of shoes 
for men and women
  • Check out our new website where we make it easier than ever to find exactly what you need!
  • We beat most competitor prices on all major brands!
  • We’re not satisfied until you’re satisfied!

Now let’s take a look at the second set of advantage statements by their competition

Marketing themes: Set 2

  • 365 day no questions asked return policy
  • You get free shipping both ways
  • You get free returns on anything you aren’t satisfied with. No explanation necessary
  • You get competitive pricing
  • You get a live person and customer support 24/7/365
  • You can connect with us on Social Media for deals, updates and company info
  • You can comment, review and connect with other shoe lovers

The first list showcases “phantom advantages”. This is very typical. Phantom advantages speak in generalities and lack any
authentic advantages at all. They say “just trust us, we are good”.

The problem is your competition says the same thing. You’ll never find a company that markets “our service is average”, “our inventory is basically just like our competition”, “we are understaffed but work really hard” or “we take returns but need you to give a great reason why first”.

Phantom advantages are not advantages at all, they are simply words to fill up space and avoid the need to find true, innovative solutions.

Without a true competitive advantage you will have a difficult time turning customers into raving fans!

Customers assume they will receive quick, reliable service and products. They assume you’ll get right back to them and your pricing is fair.

This has become the default mentality for consumers. You don’t have to tell me your staff is friendly. They better be! You don’t have to tell me your pricing is competitive because I can find out in mere seconds on my mobile.

Consumers want to be evangelists for brands. Everyone wants to be the person to find the next great thing or brag to friends that they’ve been to the latest and greatest place. Customers are begging you to give them something they can build a story around.

Most companies simply don’t give them a reason. In order to gain a competitive advantage, and take a bite out of the market, you have to have a real advantage. You then need to (1) communicate it clearly and (2) back it up with action. Don’t tell me you have great service. Tell me I can talk to someone 24/7/365 and return anything for any reason anytime. Now I’m interested. Don’t tell me you have had satisfied customers for 30 years. Tell me I will be satisfied and if I’m not I can make a fully refunded exchange, no questions asked for up to 365 days! Now you have my attention.

The second list is a “should ask questions” list. It speaks in terms of specific, accountable actions that you, the customer, receive. This list says, “You don’t get great service here, you get ZAPPOS service”. Notice how this list spells out clearly what I get. I don’t just get great service, I get a human to talk to 24/7/365. They aren’t just working to make me happy, they’ll take back anything for any reason for a year! Wow.

Take some time to review your marketing materials. Evaluate your competitive advantage and make sure it’s a true advantage and not a phantom. Review your competition to see what they are doing different. If they are not adding value in ways that gives them a competitive advantage, don’t get all happy and feel relieved. You may be virtual clones that are fighting on price and convenience.

If your competition looks a lot like you then it’s time to sit down with your team and lay out some true advantages you can deliver and then over-deliver. If you lay out your advantages in a clear, compelling manner, there will be little question as to who the leader in the market is. Your competition will no longer be your competition, but just another company with stuff in inventory people can buy.

Here’s a great exercise: NOTE that you’ll need some independent thinkers to evaluate this in order to get an authentic answer.

Take your marketing materials (any materials) and put them side by side with your competition. Remove any address, imagery or name recognition that signifies who the company is. Just leave the message in tact without the source.

Then ask yourself this:

  • If we asked consumers in our market which was which – would it be clear?
  • If we put the competitor logo and address on our material and ours on their material, is Is pretty much the same?
  • Is there anything in the messaging that stands out as impressive, different or intriguing?
    (NOTE: ignore the design, colors, logos. We’re talking about the message being communicated here.)

In your pursuit of greatness, make sure you have something worth talking about. Make sure you have a true competitive advantage or you’ll be stuck battling on price and there will always be someone willing to go lower than you.

Find what makes you truly remarkable, or better yet what your customers would find to be truly remarkable, and make sure everyone knows that’s why they should be working with you!

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