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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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