Well what is competitive advantage? It is basically a commercial advantage that one company or organisation has over its competitors. In respect of strategy, the ultimate objective is to ensure that this advantage is sustained on an ongoing basis and that competitors are always one step behind.
Warren Buffet has mentioned in an article featured in Fortune magazine "The key to investing is not assessing how much an industry is going to affect society, or how much it will grow, but rather determining the competitive advantage of any given company and, above all, the durability of that advantage."
Knowledge is the ultimate competitive advantage only if understood from an action-
oriented perspective”. The guru of competitive advantage is the well known Harvard University Professor Michael Porter.
A Real Advantage
Effective competitive advantage is to offer (successfully) a service or product before your
competitors or if you are an entrant where a competitive product already exists then you
need to offer a differentiated service or product in order to gain the top spot in the market segment that is being participated within.
The role of the marketing department is to find niches where distinct advantage can be
publicised and exploited above that of the direct competition. I would suggest that any
company entering into a new market or one that has a strong competitive base already
established that they seriously brain storm their “go to market” techniques related to
the market space that they are looking to dominate.
Techniques such as SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) and PEST
(political, environmental, sociological and technological) should be employed in this analysis phase.
Business Intelligence Equals “Information”
Competitive advantage is all about knowing about your competitors and their offerings
that is why business intelligence and market research are vitally important. Competitive
advantage is like a chess game with strategic moves giving the upper hand in the market place.
Make sure that your organisation is using everything in its power to gain an advantage and that includes employees and other resources. Look at business tools to gain a complete advantage (see business analytics). It may be costly , but the investment may reap rewards.
Ensure you can sustain anything that you may introduce, to move forward with a strategy that is under resourced can seriously damage your businesses health especially when it affects customers, this then affects your reputation.
Control Your Costs
Competitive advantage means that you need to ensure that your service or product is
produced at the lowest possible cost; thus your cost base means that you can afford to be price competitive over your rivals whilst maintaining quality and service. Leave no stone unturned; look at everything.!!
You are looking to seek a competitive advantage in a specific market space. Ensure you do your homework and look at every aspect of the market in order to find those niches where you have an advantage over your rivals. It could be the ability to produce an item that much cheaper, it could be that you can make it faster (look at how quickly Dell can make a computer from component to finished product) whatever it is, identify it, market it , exploit it and ensure you can continue to improve on it. Remember the competitor is the one always running with you to the finishing line.
Make sure you win!!