Strategy: How to outcompete the competition, finding sustainable competitive advantage

 Sustainable Competitive Advantage 

Few companies can lay claim to that holy grail market position for any length of time. Here are some that come immediately to mind: Ferrari, Rolls Royce Engines, Hoover, Apple’s Iphone and Ipod, Boeing, Walkman, Sky, Microsoft Windows, are all good examples of companies who have achieved, or are holding it today.  Sustainable competitive advantage is the ability to create and sustain a position within a market. Sustaining a desirable market position provides long-term competitive posiitoning for that brand.

The competitive advantage most companies strategically aim for is to own the space of early adopter within an adoption curve. That position, where brands are seen as premium players, producing innovative new products and services and able to command and earn premium prices for those products. That premium position, finding, and holding the early adopter position in any market is seen as the optimum competitive advantage position within any market.

By finding that competitive position, and often helping creating the market structure, a brand takes ownership of that the competitive position and often drives the development and evolution of the market.  A company can choose to operate anywhere within a market and make it competitive if they build their business model to a defined market position.

Making it Sustainable

Making a competitive position sustainable requires a brand to develop its ability to sustain its position over the long term. That sounds easy in theory, but in reality is hard. Short-term attitudes in growth and profit can easily distract a leadership teams focus. Failing to invest in sustaining their brand’s market position, or stakeholder demands for profit taking are two of the most common pulls that destabilise a brands’ established market position.

The challenge for any leadership team with their business is to be able to see the market position they want and then to take hold and hold onto that market position. Sustainable competitive advantage, the holy grail of a successful business is not easy to find, straight forward to own or simple to sustain, and that’s why it is every leaders’ holy grail.

How to Outcompete the Competition 

In mature (and often saturated) markets developing a unique strategic position can give a business sustainable competitive advantage. A sustainable competitive advantage in any market is the holy grail for business owners. To be somewhere that your competitors aren’t, and to have something that cannot be taken away, is what every business leader wants to achieve in setting up in business, and  dreams of achieving. It is one clear defining way of out competing the competition is to develop a sustainable competitive advantage in a market.

Dyson Vacuum Cleaners

To be recognised as the market maker, such as Hoover, whose name is synonymous with vacuum cleaners, gave the Hoover brand unbelievable control of the market for most of the 20th century.  Hoover, the brand leader owned the global market, with an unparalleled history, and complete market dominance. The brand name itself became synonymous with the product category, everyone hoovered their house with a Hoover.

So what changed? A loss of focus and desire to continue to own the market coupled with the airplane ticket fiasco which opened the door to new competitors and to one man in particular James Dyson who grabbed the opportunity to replace Hoovers’ once held position in the market launching his own Dyson brand through technology shift of his cyclone bag less vacuum.

His passion, created from vacuuming at home and becoming frustrated, seeing the cyclone idea at a sawmill which then took 15 years, 5,127 prototypes to turn into a winning product. Today this winning product benefits upon 60% recommendation purchases and has allowed Dyson to spin his cyclone technology into hair and air dryers as well as washing machines.

Features of Strategic Competitive Advantage

What are the key features of sustainable competitive advantage for any company in their market, well here are the most commonly found top five:-

  • Charge a premium for its services; even low cost suppliers out price other low cost suppliers.
  • Lead the market through innovation; will get to market new ideas quicker or in a more dominant way to shift the market to your agenda.
  • Controls the key channels to market; from buying decision processes to pricing structures.
  • Owns the pace of change within the market; from technology development and consumer mind set, being the pace setter in the market.
  • Control of buyer activity; the significant majority of the Share Of Buy (SOB) and Share Of Space (SOS) decsions through its dominance.

Sustainable competitive advantage is an extremely difficult goal. Most successful brands only ever achieve the challenger market position, one that challenges existing perceptions within a market. Developing a sustainable competitive advantage requires an organisation to constantly challenge not only the competition but also itself, to sustain its desirable position within its market.

Creating dominant sustainability requires the leadership to create a clear vision of where the company is going and where the market opportunity exists.  It takes leadership with passion, dedication and drive for a brand to succeed in moving from a challenger brand to one which can dominate and sustain that domination of its market such as Dyson. For men like James Dyson the advantage was that he was in the right place at the right time, with the right product.  That has enabled a technological shift in the market with his bag less vacuum and a move to smaller cable-less products dominate the innovator position within the market.

Learn More about Strategy

If you want to develop your company’s position then there needs to be a vision for it. Where it is going and why. If your look for some advice on developing your company, its marketing, its sustainable competitive advantage then contact us at Cowden Consulting to see how we can assist you, or read more about us in this blog or at Cowden Consulting.


Strategy The Leader's Role By Richard Gourlay

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Are you on a MISSION or just a dreamer?

One of the most important pieces of any good business plan is to define what you do and where you are going as a business. If you do not define what you do and where you are going then why should people work with you or for you? Defining your purpose as a business is the clearest statement of intent any director or owner of a business can make, and yet one of the most misunderstood and avoided pieces of any business plan. This is the mission statement which everyone in a company should be able to relate to and believe in.

Why is it avoided? In my experience directors are most often frightened of making a commitment of what they stand for so as not to alienate any existing or potential customers who may not fit the proposed mission statement. This contradiction, not wanting to say what the primary goal of a business or organization is, means that many companies try to be everything to everyone, ending up being meaningless to everyone.

Mission Failure

This failure to define a mission is also one of the biggest limitations companies and organizations have in creating clear blue water between them and other players in their market. It is why so many companies struggle to stand out and then expect someone in marketing to try to answer that question sometime later. It is not up to marketing to define the purpose of any business or organization, they must influence it but it takes leadership from the top for a mission statement to be successful.  It may also be why so many companies have to spend so much on marketing to define them.

Mission Statement

A good mission statement is clear, unambiguous, engaging and relevant to all its key audiences: namely its leadership, senior management, employees, shareholders and customers. A mission and a vision (but more of that later) provides a central definition of what a business or organization delivers.

Creating a Successful Mission Statement

Here’s a quick-step guide to creating a mission statement.

  1. First identify your organization’s “strategic advantage” what makes you successful. This is the idea or approach that makes your organization stand out from its competitors; the reason that customers prefer you and not your competitors, what makes you unique, what are your core competencies?
  2. Secondly, identify the key measures of your success. Key success measures by which you can measure, Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s), typically pick 3 to 5 headline measures of performance.
  3. Thirdly combine your strategic advantage and success measures (KPI’s) into tangible and measurable goal.
  4. Define the wording, using clear language, until you have a concise and precise statement of your mission, which expresses your ideas, measures, and desired result.
  5. Now communicate it effectively so everyone owns the mission statement within the company, make it public and ensure it is owned from the top with passion.

Communicating mission statements effectively to everyone is a defining piece of making the mission live. After all the hard work in having one so often they are filed away, or framed and stuck on the wall and forgotten. Instead successful Mission statements are launched to everyone and owned.

I’ve run embedding program within companies to ensure that everyone inside businesses and organizations “own” the Mission and build it into their everyday activity.

If you don’t follow through then all the effort is wasted and the opportunity is lost, so remember to focus on making your mission statement memorable and relevant. The leadership also needs to own the mission statement and make it live throughout the company.

A Mission Creates Loyalty

If you do this businesses and companies can achieve significant improvements which can include: building higher loyalty from staff, higher levels of customer service; improved stakeholder and channel support and lower costs for winning new higher value customers. These are just some examples of the benefits from having and using a mission statement successfully at the front end, one other major advantage is that you have a foundation upon which to build your business plan.

Good Luck: Want to develop your growth plan, use my business planning tool kit, click here to Take the guess work out of your business success   or click this link to learn how to greta your own business strategy:-

Strategy: The Leader's Role by Richard Gourlay , a book for business leaders to learn how to develop and deploy their business success
Strategy: The Leader’s Role by Richard Gourlay
Richard Gourlay

 

Do you have a plan for Growth?

Do you have a plan for GROWTH? 

Leadership is most often identified as someone with a clear vision to grow their organisation, of where it is to where you want it to be within its market. By definition, that means looking for and finding growth.  All leaders must focus on looking for growth and development of their organisation if leadership is going to be seen as successful. But many leaders do not have a plan for growth within their organisation.

Leaders need a plan for growth

Do you have a clear vision of where you are going to take your business?  From understanding the market and its direction to where your business needs to be within those sectors, to profit from the growth within the market.  Leaders need to be strategically aware of their market if they are to find and focus on growth within their organisation.
Leaders must also redesign their organisation so that it can take advantage of growth opportunities, redesigning how a business operates to increase turnover and / or profits is at the heart of ensuring a leadership team has plan for growth.  Revitalising the sales and marketing operations is at the heart of acquiring more clients and developing improved relationship structures with customers and channel partners.
With a plan for growth leadership teams can reduce the amount of down time and focus their efforts on driving your business forward, with a clear vision of where you are going and why.  Successful businesses develop strategic plans to move their business forward, to grow and succeed, while being in control.
The first role af any owner or director is to have a plan, from star-up onwards (not for the banks) but for you to own and deliver. That plan needs to be kept alive, fresh and driven to focus on success and succeeding.

GROWTH needs a Strategy

strategy is a researched approach by the leadership team, supported by a detailed plan of continual action steps to get the organisation to where you want it to be. The reason strategies are so vital is they keep things moving, and in business, if you are not going forward, you’re going backwards, and that can happen very fast.  So, if you want your business to be successful and/or pay you more, having a strategy that focuses on growth is a must!
If you have no formal strategy to take your business to the next level you need to refocus your priorities right now to create growth, here’s the first stage of a growth strategy framework:

Create a clear vision of what you want to achieve:

There’s an old saying that you can’t hit a target you can’t see. Well your vision is your target. Your vision needs to be very clear in terms of what you want from your business, by turnover, profit, customer type or all three? What’s your ideal position in that market, do you want to be known as the premier supplier of your product or service, or a low cost or niche player?
What about your personal goals to support your lifestyle?  You need to be very clear about what you want and what you don’t want. Have a clear focus that will keep you aligned with your long term goal for you and your business. Make your vision aspirational, where do you want your business to be within the net 3 to 5 years? What will it look like and what will the business feel like to be part of?

Looking for Business Growth

Starting with a clear vision for growth within a business is the simplest and most powerful way a leader can motivate everyone. Growth is about understanding the drivers of growth within your business sector.  Knowing where a market is going requires leaders to step out of the day-to-day operational detail and focusing on the drivers of your market.
Growth is fundamental to a successful company. Finding growth does not mean just looking for growth in turnover, growth in profitability is by far the most valuable growth any leader can find. Growth can also be found in winning new market entrants; cross selling penetration to existing customers; launching  innovative products and services or premium pricing of scarce products.  Other profitable ways to grow your business include driving demand of premium and unique products, where your business has or can create a competitive advantage.
Like to learn more about creating growth for your business, then get in touch with us through the links below.
Cowden Consulting provides Strategic Planning Workshops which enable owners to create their vision of what they want to achieve. Our SPW faciliated workshops provide the opportunity for owners to work on their business not in their business. To learn more about Strategic Planning Workshops (SPW’s) or contact us by clicking Cowden Consulting to discuss your needs, or go to our website www.cowdenconsulting.com to learn more about us.
Learn more click here to read more about Richard Gourlay 
strategy, leadership and vision in business by Steve Jobs

Values matter in BUSINESS more than ever

Values must be transparent

The way you provide your product or service and to whom, says more about you than how much business you do. Being big in a highly segmented world is no longer the determination of success. How you do your business now determines your current credibility and future success. Credibility is as much about your values in becoming successful as about the success you have. Mohamed Al-Fayed for example, despite buying Harrods, never shook off questions about his background.

Your values as an organisation as demonstrated by everyone inside your organisation matter to both existing and potential customers in choosing to do business with you. People have choices and they can now exercise them more freely than ever before, and that means customers can access information instantly to make choices that are more informed. Ikea’s staff misinforming undercover Times reporters about their sustainable and certified sourced products at a number of shops are one symptom of Ikea’s rapid growth boardroom culture.

Values Must Live the Moment

Almost everything in life is in real-time and instantly communicated to circles of influence and beyond. A restaurant having  bad night can have a poor reputation before the starter has even been cleared away as customers post live feed back to sites such as Qype or Trip Advisor . Therefore, before the waiter, maitre d’ or chef knows what’s happening the world outside already does by Twitter and Facebook and are cancelling their reservations in their droves.

Why clean lavatories matter?

The old adage that if you want to know how clean the restaurant kitchen is, inspect the lavatories, because they tell you how the restaurant values cleanliness, is a great example of modern customer awareness. Do you live your values or just post them on your website? Is the question customers want to know in establishing and experiencing trust with you and your brand.

Rail companies learning fast

The recent story of the man on the train talking too loudly causing enraged customers to Tweet  complaints about his behaviour which was picked up by a duty manager hundreds of miles away who then contacted staff on the train to track down the loud caller and asked him to quieted down.
This story is very much testimony to the growing demands of customer expectations, immediate online response, not waiting for passing train staff to react. This story is part of the reputation shift that train companies are actively pursuing.
The values that a business lives really matter to customers and to the brand reputation. Learn more about strategy and how to build yours in your business, click here or on the book below.
Strategy The Leader's Role By Richard Gourlay
Strategy: The Leader’s Role by Richard Gourlay
Dyson strategy to outcompete the competition

What Makes a Great Brand (Part 2)

Clear Brand Strategy

Being clear and precise is also important in the company’s messages for a brand to succeed, a strong undiluted brand message must enthuse internally but must also consistently connect with customers through touch points, look at Innocent, Dorset Cereals or Apple as classic examples of touch point. They also demonstrate a clear story delivered with passion about who they are what they do and why they matter. This focused and consistent message is not just a marketing message but an ingrained set of values which consumers buy into with passion. These brands not only position themselves as premium players in their fields and earn more but they also continuously find new ways to spread their key messages to customers, they have a clear brand strategy to achieve it.

Everyone Lives the Brand

Another vital aspect of any brand success is that the people within that brand demonstrate what they preach, they live that lifestyle, support that brand and contribute to its success. It is their lifestyle, it is a part of the way they and their brand do business.
 Great brands go beyond the brand to understand its real value to existing customers but also to tomorrow’s customers.  Whether it is a family run local shop or a global supermarket chain great brands position themselves so they develop and hold a market position to develop long-term success.

Great Brands

Great brands also develop their own uniqueness, not just the product or service but the whole package is how we do it around here. There needs to be not only consistency but the brand hand writing and value on how they do it. The best brands always develop singular simple signals for customers, cutting through jargon to create clarity without patronisation.
For brands to succeed in today’s global markets these golden rules have never been more important as consumers have never had so much information, but if you follow these simple rules of brand success you can develop and maintain a great brand.

Looking for Advice 

If you want to develop your company’s brand and are looking for some advice on developing your company, its marketing, its sustainable competitive advantage then contact us at Cowden Consulting to see how we can assist you, or read more about us in this blog or at Cowden Consulting.