How To Find Your Competitive Advantage
Yes, you have one.
You have a competitive advantage. But do you know what it is?
Lots of people don’t.
There are reasons for people to choose you and your work over other available options and the better you understand these reasons, the more likely you are to succeed.
Your ability to leverage competitive advantages is a key to attracting customers, fans, and success.
To figure out what advantages you may have, ask yourself the following eight questions.
1. Do you have a skill or combination of skills that most others don’t have?
Write a list of all your skills.
Now, break down each skill into sub-specialties within that skill.
For example, if one of your skills is “writing,” think about what types of writing are your strengths.
For me, that might be my ability to write blog posts, social media content, and to write in a concise, easy-to-understand way thanks to my journalism background.
This differentiates me from other writers and helps me see where my skill can be a competitive advantage.
I don’t have an advantage when it comes to writing a literary novel, but I do when it comes to content marketing.
Review your sub-skills list and look for ways to combine multiple skills into something unique.
For example, a few years ago I recognized the combination of my writing and marketing skills with my comedy industry knowledge (I used to produce comedy shows and worked for a comedy website) could give me a competitive advantage.
There were few (if any) people who had that same skill combination and therefore I’d have an advantage if I created something to leverage that unique skill mix.
Sure enough, when I launched my Connected Comedy blog and consulting service it stood out immediately and became successful — my unique combination of skills gave me a huge competitive advantage in the space.
2. Do you have relationships with people that most others don’t?
The saying “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” isn’t entirely true, but that doesn’t mean there’s not value to your connections.
Networking — whether done intentionally or coincidentally — can create huge competitive advantages for you.
Think about who you know and have access to that your potential competitors likely do not — it may be a source of advantage for you.
For example, one of the reasons journalists are often able to successfully transition into public relations executives is because they have a competitive advantage based on their relationships.
They’ve dealt with PR people for a while so they have an advantage when it comes to learning about opportunities and in many cases have written helpful stories about those companies in the past so there’s a positive rapport there.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, the relationships they have with other journalists (their former peers) gives them a competitive advantage compared to people who may have only worked as publicists in their career.
They’re able to leverage their relationships and camaraderie with journalists in a different way than career publicists can. It’s a competitive advantage.
3. Do you have resources that most others don’t?
Are you financially secure enough to afford to take chances others can’t?
Do you own something of value that your competitors don’t?
Do you have access to knowledge, data, materials, capital, locations, staff or anything else that separates you from your competition?
Chances are you do.
The unique resources you have — or can easily access — are a great source of competitive advantage.
An obvious example of this is financial.
If you have 10 times more money to bankroll your business than your competitors, it unlocks opportunities for advertising, product development and staff they may not be able to compete with.
But it doesn’t just have to be about money.
Maybe you’re a filmmaker who has the rights to someone’s incredible life story which means you’re the only one who can make it into a movie.
Bill Gates’ initial competitive advantage was that as a kid he had access to a computer, which at the time was typically only available to big corporations.
You don’t have to be rich to have resources or access you can use to your advantage.
4. Do you have experience and experiences that most others don’t?
No matter what field you work in, the more experience you have, the bigger your competitive advantage.
But this is also true of the variety of experiences you’ve had.
Here’s an example from my own career.
I have a lot of experience in social media content and marketing, but so do a lot of people.
A lot FEWER people have 10+ years experience in social media, since it’s such a relatively new field.
And just about none of those people have 10+ years experience AND the additional experience of having run social media for The Academy of Motion Pictures and The Oscars for several years, including helping create the infamous Ellen selfie that became the most retweeted tweet of all time.
This combination of experience and specific EXPERIENCES separates me from other social media experts in the world. It’s a differentiation point and a competitive advantage when dealing with clients in the entertainment space.
Think about the experience you have — both from a quantitative perspective and in terms of specific accomplishments you’ve had in your work — and look for the things you’ve done that very few (if any) others can claim as well.
5. Do you have a specialization that most others don’t?
Let’s say you opened a fast casual restaurant in Los Angeles and needed to hire somebody to design it.
There are tons of restaurant designers with experience designing all kinds of restaurants who I’m sure could do a great job.
But you’d be more likely to hire the company that SPECIALIZES in Los Angeles fast casual restaurant design, right?
Their specialization is their competitive advantage because you assume they’ll know best how to give you exactly what you need.
The same is true for your work.
Figure out what your specialty is and how it can make you the PERFECT fit for a certain customer and that specialization becomes a competitive advantage in the market.
It doesn’t mean you can’t do other things, and it doesn’t mean it will give you a competitive advantage in every scenario, but it can certainly help you in some.
Think about it:
A wedding band who specializes in playing Jewish weddings may have a competitive advantage over general wedding bands when it comes to Jewish clients.
An architect who specializes in beach houses has an advantage over a general architect when it comes to somebody looking to build a beach house.
A company that sells watches designed for frequent travelers has an advantage over a general watch maker.
The more you specialize, the easier it is to find your advantage.
6. Do you have a price that most others don’t?
Wal-Mart. Costco. Amazon.
This one’s obvious.
If you structure your business in a way that you can offer products to customers at a lower price than your competition, you will have an advantage.
But here’s what may be less obvious —you can also create a competitive advantage by being the most EXPENSIVE product in a category.
The FleurBurger 5000 is a burger sold at the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas that costs $5,000. Its price may seem insane, but that’s exactly the point — the high price is its competitive advantage.
Because when people buy the FleurBurger, they’re buying a story and an experience. If the same burger cost $50, it would just be an expensive burger and nobody would care.
To find your competitive advantage you have to figure out how to separate yourself from the crowd and while that can obviously be done by offering people the lowest price, it can also be done by offering them the highest one.
7. Do you have a brand that means something?
Harvard’s a great school, but do you know what its real competitive advantage is?
That it’s Harvard.
Lots of Ivy League schools offer an education every bit as good as the one you get from Harvard, but none of them carry the same brand power that Harvard does.
Stephen King isn’t the only author who writes great horror books. But he’s the only Stephen King. His brand means something — it’s a competitive advantage.
In looking for your competitive advantage, think about the power of your brand and how you can grow and leverage it.
Branding isn’t easy, but if you can get to a place where yours has true meaning and power, it gives you a valuable advantage in everything you do.
8. Do you have a process that most others don’t?
Sometimes a competitive advantage may not be the finished product itself, but the process you undertake to create it.
For example, if you’re a logo designer there are lots of other designers who can create logos just as well as you do.
But is there something different about your process that could be a competitive advantage?
Maybe your process is more collaborative, iterative, or unique in the way it helps clients figure out what they want or need?
A unique process can separate your work from your competitors and give people a reason to choose you.
People love Beyonce’s music, but they also know when they go to her concert that they’re going to see an elaborate performance— it won’t just be her standing on stage singing with a band.
This gives her a competitive advantage over other musicians who may not operate the same way.
No matter what you do, you have a process in how you do it. Think about how that process may impact the audience or customers you’re trying to reach and if it can be leveraged to your advantage.