Competitive differentiation – big thing or small?

competitive differentiation
Big of course! Well yes, but not necessarily achieved by big steps or major initiatives.

For a lot of businesses, competitive differentiation is getting harder and harder. That’s understandable too – developing and sustaining a truly distinctive product or service is just bl***y difficult!

So what to do?

When faced with this challenge, most businesses instinctively look externally. What’s happening in our market place? What are our customers asking for? What do our competitors do better than us?

Another approach, which seems counter-intuitive, is to look the other way – i.e. inwards. Look at what you do and how you do it. That means everything – all the mundane activities that occur in your business every day and the people, processes and systems that sustain them.

If you look at them critically – really look, what do you think you will find? My guess is that you would find there is scope for a 1-3% improvement here, 2-5% there and so on.

In our experience, when you ask the people doing any given, regular task in business what they think could be done to make it better, faster, cheaper, etc. they invariably come up with an improvement level of up to 5% without any difficulty. In some cases, of course, far more can be achieved but that’s not the basis I want us to assume here.

Let’s assume it’s only about small increments of improvement.

What might you find in your business? Again, let’s be modest, say 10 – 20 activities or actions that your business could do, say, 1-3% “better”. Note, these are specific, regular tasks necessary for the normal operation of the business.

What would that translate to? Across a significant proportion of your business, that could easily mean a 30 – 40% improvement in effectiveness and efficiency.

What would that level of improvement be worth?
From a competitive differentiation perspective it could be a lot or a little, but it’s likely to be significant. Why?

Well, the way you do things has an impact on your customers or clients. It may be direct or indirect, depending on your type of business and the way you trade with your customers.

The point is, by giving your internal activities this level of focus, you are directly impacting your quality of execution. And quality of execution is one of three critical elements that contribute to long-term competitive edge.

Simply by evaluating, critiquing, tweaking continuously and seeking to always be that bit better at everything you do within and throughout the business, it’s possible to achieve significant improvements in your performance that collectively make sure you stand out from the crowd.

Competitive differentiation from lots of small stuff – now that’s BIG! Where are you going to start?

Author: Andrew Hall