Fundamentally, no matter what its product or service, every business wants to increase sales and improve its profit margins.

To support this, a business has to define its sustainable competitive advantage (SCA) – its capabilities, competences or products – that enable it to meet its customers’ needs better than its competitors so that customers choose to use that business in the first place and then continue to use it, loyally, long term.

To define its SCA, a business needs to audit its unique selling proposition (USP) and core competencies.

The USP identifies what customers are offered and why this is different from all those other companies out there that are trying to sell the same thing.

Analysing core competences means a smart, honest focus on what the business does exceptionally well, what is difficult to copy, and what can be offered to a broad market for maximum opportunity.

Both analyses have to be relevant and practical. Ideologies are not particularly helpful here as they can be indistinct in terms of subsequent action.

But first of all, a business needs to identify what their customers really value and want, which isn’t necessarily what the business wants to provide them with. It needs to ask why people buy something and how do they make that decision, so that the business has an accurate insight into a customer’s action criteria.

So, consider:

  • What do you do well in your marketplace – crucially – when compared with your competitors.
  • What do you do better than the others in your marketplace.

If you can tease out an area that no-one does well, then you have an area to exploit. If you can pinpoint what you could do better than your competitors, you can work out what tangible steps can be taken to do so.

Basically, how can you improve and how do you market those improvements?

For example, depending on where you pitch yourself, if your prices are higher than your competitors, hype the high quality of your offering. If your quality is mid-range, hype the quality/affordability aspect, and if your product is lower range, hype its affordability.

Find an advantage and use it.