Who are your top 10 competitors?
Don’t roll your eyes — just write down as many competitors as you can think of. I doubt you’ll think of 10 names right away, but you’ll probably think of 2 competitors immediately.
Now, let’s say you and your top competitors offered the exact same solution at the exact same price to your target buyer.
Who would your target buyer choose?
In other words, if XYZ Corp — your top competitor — put together an offer that was IDENTICAL to yours in every way, which company would your ideal customer go with?
Maybe this scenario feels impractical and imperfect. You think, “That would never actually happen!”
The thing is… it does.
And your customers think it happens all the time.
Why They’d Choose Your Competitor
If (or when) your target customer is faced with a choice between you and your competitors, why would they choose a competitor? How would your competitor’s solution be a better fit?
Understanding what makes your competition a better option is a useful piece of information we can use in developing your strategy.
Once we know why a customer would choose someone else, we can define the strategic opportunity.
If we’re going after the same ideal buyer, we can’t just meet the same demand created by our competition — we have to exceed it or replace it. Our strategic focus becomes meeting the needs of the customer more effectively than our competitors can.
Why They’d Choose You
Maybe your business is in a different position. If your target customers were faced with this dilemma, you think they’d choose you over your competitor.
But what makes you a better choice for your customers?
Is your brand stronger? Is your purpose clearer? Do you have better resources?
That’s another valuable piece of strategic information. Something makes you different (aside from the cost or the solution). And if you can identify these strengths, you can capitalize on them in your strategy.
What Makes You Different?
We ask these “what if” questions because they grant us insight. The more time we spend in these types of questions, the better understanding we’ll have about what our strategy needs to accomplish for us.
These questions help us understand what people think us from the outside, a.k.a. our “branded perception.”
To develop a strategy that works, we need to know what makes your company different than the others. And if there’s not much differentiation right now, part of the strategy is creating it.
We’ve talked before about The Opportunity Quadrant. This chart helps us understand our true focus and the strength of our brand.
It’s only when we understand our current state that can we accurately identify where the most strategic opportunity lies.
Then, it’s time to assess your value.
To create an effective strategy, you have to understand how customers perceive your company. The Building Blocks of Value chart helps us see where we fall on the spectrum of branded perception. This chart flows from the bottom, up — moving from undifferentiated value through the different stages of customer perception about the value of your company.
On the left, you’ll see the things potential customers say to themselves as they experience you. This is how valuable you are to them.
What kind of value do you have now? What kind of value do you want to have?
While achieving Branded Value is something to aspire to, we don’t always need it to accomplish our goals.
That’s because the battle isn’t always over branding. The battle is over differentiation. And you’ll never have a strong brand without strong differentiation.
So, your first task is to figure out what’s different about your company. How are you going to stand out to your customers?
Differentiation is the essence of strategy.
Strategy revolves around how you’re going to create differentiated value. Then, we can build branding in addition to differentiation and move to the top right-hand corner of the Opportunity Quadrant with a strong brand and a customer-focus.
Well-branded companies are almost always singularly focused on their ideal buyer. They meet or exceeds customer expectations consistently and differentiate themselves from everyone else in their space.
Pair this with a strong brand and you make the choice easy for your customers.