Resolution #1: Identify—and Act On–Your Unique Business Strategy

Are you sick and tired of losing your market share to more and more competitors? Is it time you made a resolution to gain some of it back? This could be your year–if you’re up for the challenge.

Eking out a bit more margin by beating up your vendors, tweaking your manufacturing process, or hiring a new channel sales manager may sound like a good idea, but the effect on the bottom line will be minimal. If you truly want to set a goal of gaining significant market share in ’06, make a commitment to a new and better business strategy.

First, find your point of differentiation
Take a look at your current business strategy. How well have you defined your ideal target market? Have you articulated your differentiating claim in the market? Are all of your sales and marketing materials clearly and consistently delivering these messages?

When reassessing your current business strategy, start with three main objectives:

1) Establish your company’s difference in the marketplace–what truly makes your customers buy from you and not your competitors.

2) Clearly articulate that difference across all aspects of the company.

3) Consistently and boldly focus on exceeding your customers’ expectations as related to your unique claims.

Looking at your business from a bird’s-eye perspective is important during this process. You must take into account all aspects of the business–especially the point of view of your customers and prospects. Your new strategy should be built around their needs and wants. For instance, differentiating yourself on something your customer doesn’t even care about makes no sense. When identifying and establishing your unique competitive advantage, it’s important to understand what really matters to your target market.

What’s more, your unique difference must be something a competitor isn’t known for—otherwise it’s not unique. And of course, when choosing a differentiating claim, be sure it’s something you do well and can deliver time and time again. The worst thing in business is to underdeliver on what you’ve promised.

To recap, here’s the filter when determining your unique claim in the market:

1) Differentiate based on something truly meaningful to the target market.

2) Choose a differentiator not claimed by your competitors.

3) Choose a differentiator that your company can consistently deliver.

Oh, I nearly forgot one of the most important points when establishing your unique difference in the marketplace. Your differentiating claim cannot be price. Low prices are very difficult to sustain over time and will serve only to chip away at your margins and profits.

Now, walk it like you talk it
Once you choose a unique and compelling differentiator, you’ll want to unleash it across the whole organization. This is where you will assess all business functions and introduce the differentiating claim to each one. This may mean you have to make changes in your business processes in production, sales, compensation, human resources, or other departments. If the differentiating claim you articulated was promising zero defects to your clients, for example, you’ll want to change your compensation structure for factory workers. Rather than basing their compensation on the volume of products produced, you might offer bonuses based on zero defects. Likewise, you might implement personality testing within your HR department to ensure that you hire more detail-oriented individuals who will embrace your zero-defects goal.

As you can see, a truly potent business strategy is more than just a tagline or mission statement. Ultimately your business strategy should be reflected in the way each employee views his place in the company, the attitude and skill with which he performs his work, and his understanding and embracing your company’s mission. In short, it’s a way of life within your four walls.

Finally, once you’ve established your differentiating claim and implemented the claim across your organization, you will encounter the toughest part of all: sticking to your guns. You see, prospects and customers aren’t interested in your company’s “business strategy.” They’re interested in what’s in it for them. If your communication with your customers and prospects is anything but clear and consistent, they simply won’t understand why they should choose you over your competitors.

From your marketing collateral to your delivery drivers to the phone demeanor of your receptionist, your claim of uniqueness should shine through. Your goal is to make a statement–and your employees as well as customers and prospects should be able to recite back to you what the statement is.

Ed King is corporate rejuvenation specialist for Turning Point Strategies (, an Atlanta-based branding firm.

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