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Gain a Competitive Advantage

Gaining and maintaining a winning position in an evermore competitive marketplace
is a serious challenge facing companies large and small.

Below are some suggestions on how you can Gain a Competitive Advantage and maintain a leading market position.

Ask your customers!
It is absolutely imperative to understand your customers and potential customers' requirements. Discover what your customers need that your competitors do not offer.

Questionnaires are an excellent way to obtain feedback about your own company's performance and the performance of your competitors. Over time, you will be able to use your customer feedback to obtain trend data. You should use this market knowledge as input data for making strategic decisions and for the purposes of action planning.

Continuous listening and learning
In a rapidly changing competitive environment, many factors affect customer preference and loyalty, making it necessary to listen and learn on a continuous basis. Inviting customers to take part in field trials for new products; understanding how technology bears upon customer preferences or alternatives; and interviewing lost customers to determine the factors they use in their purchase decisions are all examples of how you can use vital information to improve customer satisfaction.

Even a small, simple change can significantly increase profits if you uncover then target your customer's preferences.

Understand your customers' value chains
Understand your customers' value proposition chains and how they are likely to change in the future will keep you abreast of the competition (value often refers to the degree of worth relative to cost and relative to possible alternatives of a product, service, process or function). Customers need to feel that they are obtaining value for the product or service they are buying.

By increasing the value of your product or service, you'll be able to influence buyers to choose your brand rather than a competitors'. Examples of value chains may include product attributes, delivery, customer or technical support and sales relationships. However, make sure that your customers understand and perceive that increased value unless you may not reap the benefits of your efforts.

Sustainable low-cost leadership
This strategy is based upon achieving sustainable cost advantages over the competition.
By using this low-cost edge you can either:
a) under price the competition to gain more market share or
b) earn higher profit margins by selling comparable brands at the market price.

Differentiate your business characteristics
Incorporate features that deviate from the average characteristics of your industry.
These features should ideally:
a) create value for your customers
b) should not be able to be easily mimicked by your competitors and
c) should avoid the necessity of you having to increase your cost base.

Examples include superior service levels, greater product availability, greater durability, technology leadership, satisfaction guarantees and an improved company image & product identity.

Master the digital universe
According to Bill Gates in his book "Business @ The Speed of Thought'' Microsoft's Chairman states that ONLY managers who master the digital universe will Gain a Competitive Advantage .

For example, McDonald's has apparently installed an information system to tally sales at all its restaurants in real time. As soon as you order two Happy Meals, a McDonald's marketing manager will know. Rather than having superficial or anecdotal data, the marketer will have hard, factual data for tracking trends and creating action plans.

Likewise, Dell Computers have gained a competitive advantage by using different combinations of face-to-face, ear-to-ear and keyboard-to-keyboard communication. By moving routine interactions to the Web, Dell has enabled customers to do many things for themselves (an experience they often enjoy!) and freed up their sales people to do more meaningful things with its key customers.

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