There are several aspects that go into making a company competitive. Technological advancements, access to markets not everyone has access to, or intellectual property rights can set you apart from your competitors in a positive and sustainable way. Even if you are still in the ideation phase of your product this is a relevant topic to consider. The ideation and early stage of product development are essential times for completing customer discovery. This will help determine your commercialization strategy and competitive advantages. Do not wait until your competitors are outselling you to determine where your sustainable competitive advantage lies.
How to gain a competitive advantage.
Every business is different and each has aspects where it excels and aspects that need work. Here are a few of the major ways companies gain a sustainable competitive advantage over others:
- IP: Owning intellectual property rights on a product or idea can help a company stay competitive. Things like patents, copyrights, and registered trademarks are all ways to own the intellectual property rights to a brand or product. This will prevent other companies from using it without permission.
- Superior Technology: Another way to stay competitive is simply to build a better product. Creating a product that uses more state-of-the-art technology than competitor products is one way to do this. No one would buy a tube TV now that smart TVs are readily available. The appeal is all about having superior technology to what is, or once was, the industry standard.
- Privileged Access to Markets: Some companies are able to gain access to markets that not all competitors are able to secure access to. This is often the case in the medical device industry. By using networking to get your product in front of people in specific industries that do not receive a lot of project pitches from the general public and sell only a small range of products to their clients. This can gain privileged access to a market segment.
- Brand Identity: Brand recognition is one of the most important aspects of marketing. If a customer likes your products and your brand they are likely to buy new products that appear under the brand. Even if the products are a departure from the main product industry. Take Harley Davidson cologne for example. Bikes and cologne have little in common and there is no market correlation between the two products but through the building of a solid brand Harley Davidson has been able to outsell some of its cologne competitors by relying on brand awareness.
- Financing: Move Fast and Dominate: Most of the more sustainably competitive companies have something in common. They believed in their dream and went for it wholeheartedly. Whether this means you take out a loan, find investors, or get federal funding, competitive companies are not usually those who wait around for capital to find them. To grow a company you need capital to finance your business well. Do what you need to do to commercialize, and dominate the market as quickly as you can.
- Manufacturing Capacity: How much product can be produced can be a competitive advantage as well. If a company can not meet demand within its supply chain, those customers are likely to buy from a competitor instead. Having a large manufacturing capacity will help you stay competitive.
- Other Key Relationship(s): Use your professional and personal network to gain a competitive edge.
- Special Knowledge: If you have any special knowledge about the market or competitors this can add to your sustainable competitive advantage. Special knowledge can come from market research, product or industry knowledge, or information from advisors and colleagues. For example, if you are selling a new app to help customers eat healthier and you are a registered dietitian, you would have special knowledge about the industry, creating a highly competitive product.
- First (or 2nd) Mover Advantage: Bringing a product to market before your competitors offer several advantages. It allows a company to market their brand and establish recognition and gain customer loyalty before their competitors. Being a first-mover also allows a company to set the price for that product or service. Second movers are able to make the most of first-movers success by entering the market shortly after. While they do not always capture a market share as large as the first-mover they still gain a competitive advantage over subsequent entries to the market.
- The Uniqueness of The Product: Having a product that offers something no other product can is a great way to gain a sustainable competitive advantage. Products can be unique in any way and most products have features that set them apart from others in the industry. What makes your product unique?
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