Here’s The Simple Way To Create A Competitive Advantage For A Promotion, New Job, Or To Start A Business

Aaron Hoos

Last year I was speaking to a group of people about how to get a competitive advantage. It was a mixed audience of professionals and college students, so I wanted to give them some practical ways that they could create a competitive advantage for themselves.

I ended up telling them this, off the cuff, near the end of the presentation and it was well-received and several people asked me to write it out and send it to them. So I did.

I’m including a version of that same information here. And the truth is, I give this same information to A LOT of people (not just those in that one presentation), and I use it for myself. It always pays off. I encourage you to use it.

This applies to anyone who has a job and wants a promotion, for anyone who wants to get a new job, and for anyone who wants to start a business or grow their business.

The Simple Way To Get A Competitive Advantage

Hey everyone,

For those who are graduating, entering a new educational program, or who aspire to a better job in a few years from now, here is a very effective strategy to give you a competitive advantage no matter what you want to do…

1. Start a blog. You can get them for free from blogging platforms like blogspot.com or wordpress.com (there are others places but those are the best two.) You can also pay for a blogging platform but it’s not necessary for what I’m suggesting.

2. Blog regularly about the job you WANT to have. For example, write about something you learned that could apply to the future job; ask a question and seek out the answer; share some reading you’ve done and research you’ve encountered; etc. If you’re bold, shoot the occasional video, post it on YouTube, and embed it into your blog. If you’re REALLY bold, find the experts in your field and interview them. There’s a lot more you could, too, but let’s keep it simple.

3. Keep at it! :) Keep at it for a couple of years. Plan for 5 years but you may start seeing some benefits from this even sooner. You don’t have to do a ton of work; 20-30 minutes a week is probably enough. (Of course you can do more but you also don’t want to burn out.) There will be times when you won’t want to blog but this strategy really only works when you persist. During this time, amazing things will happen: you’ll accelerate past your peers in your knowledge, you’ll build a small following of people who read your work and respect what you have to say, and you’ll grow a large body of work that may or may not apply to the job you’re doing now… but will most importantly, it will make you an expert for the job you want to have.

Note: you might wonder how you could possibly blog about a topic that you’re not already an expert in, or why others would even read that. But think of it this way: you don’t have to be an expert to start; you’re blogging about your journey of knowledge acquisition… and that’s exactly what other people want to read!

4. Publish. A few months before you start applying for your ideal job, gather together your best blog posts and turn those blog posts into chapters of a book. Then go to CreateSpace.com and publish your book. It doesn’t cost anything. The book will be sold on Amazon (and elsewhere).

5a. Apply for that promotion or job! Now start applying for that job. You will go into your job interview with an unparalleled depth of knowledge about your field, you’ll also have a following of people who view you as an expert, you’ll maybe have interviewed some industry experts too, and you’re the author of a book ABOUT the very topic of the job you’re applying for. Compared to the other applicants, you will be a rock star.

5b. Start that business. You’ll have a body of work already established, proof that you know what you’re talking about. You’ll be a subject matter expert simply by the fact that you’ve spent that long talking about it and exploring what others are saying. You’ll probably have an audience by this point. And, of course, you’ll have your first product — a book.

BONUS: Leverage. Although this is a long-term view and (at times) you will forget why you’re doing it or you will have trouble sticking with it, remember that this gives you many options. You can go into your interview as an expert and demand a potentially higher wage, in some situations you can pick up work on the side before you even get this new position, you’ll have a network of blog followers who you can reach out to when you want to get a job because they may know of an open position, you’ll make a bit of money off of your book, or you may even choose to branch out on your own and start your business in some situations. In short: this will give you a ton of options.

I actually gave similar advice on my blog a couple of times: Want To Start A Business Someday But Not Ready To Quit Your Job? Here’s What To Do, and, Here’s What You Should Do If You Want To Start A Business But Are Stuck In A Job.

So, think about what you want to be doing in 5 years from now, and start the easy, fun task of becoming a thought-leader today! Good luck!

5 Years??? Why So Long?

So, most people who hear this love the idea. It makes sense. It’s painless. It costs nothing but time. There’s a ton of upside and very little downside except for lost time.

But some people will read this and think: “Yikes! Five years is a long time. I want a competitive advantage right now.” Okay, fair enough. I get that. Well, I blog a lot about competitiveness and competitive advantage so just click here and read some of those blog posts.

But my opinion is: Things often take longer than we want them to. A lot of people in jobs may hope to advance by promotion to a better position in 2-3 years but in reality it takes them 3-4, for example. So 5 years might seem like a long time for you to benefit but it will go by in a flash and I think it’s fairly accurate in terms of how long things really take in life.

Fortunately, this plan is laid out in approximately 5 years but I think it can happen sooner — much sooner. I think you’ll start seeing traction in 1-2 years. Even in your immediate job you’ll start seeing things happen as you rise above your coworkers with your expertise. That will likely accelerate your schedule of growth.

Here’s The Sticking Point…

The hardest part will be sticking with it for that long. Five years is a long time. And there will be weeks when you don’t feel like writing. But trust me, your 5-years-from-now self will thank you for it. It will be challenging but you’ll be glad you did.

Here’s How To Take It To The Next Level

Maybe you’re not sure what you want to do in five years. Well, here’s a plan: Pick 2-5 topics and create a blog about each one. Is it more work? Yes. A lot more. But you’ll get the following benefits:

Summary

Five years seems like a long way off. But it will be here in a shot. So roll up your sleeves and get to work on developing your competitive advantage so that, when the future arrives, you’ll be perfectly positioned to benefit.

 


Aaron Hoos, writerAaron Hoos is a writer, strategist, and investor who builds and optimizes profitable sales funnels. He’s the author of several books, including The Sales Funnel Bible.

Use this strategy if your customers are going offshore instead of buying from you

A new client came to me recently because they were seeing many prospective customers moving their business offshore. The price disparity between buying from a North American supplier (my client) versus buying from a foreign (offshore) supplier was dramatic.

Although there is a lot going on here (in terms of economics, pricing, domestic-versus-foreign suppliers, shareholder pressure among customers, etc.), I want to focus on one simple strategy that can be used to help address this problem of buying from an offshore provider.

In a lot of industries companies used to buy locally because that was really the only option. Then the internet eliminated many of the cross-border buying barriers and suddenly countries that have a cheap labor market can underbid many domestic providers on nearly everything.

You see it in manufacturing; you see it in services. I noticed it when I was starting up my freelance writing business: I was bidding at a much higher price against freelance writers in India.

If you own a business that is facing the challenge of prospective customers who are going offshore for cheaper products and services, how do you win back that business?

YOU GET BACK INTO THE CONVERSATION

I recommend that you get back into the conversation. Specifically, you find a way to position yourself within the sales funnel of those offshore providers as a “checkpoint” that your customers will have to or want to cross before buying.

In my situation as a freelance writer years ago, I was able to get onto the same job-bidding platform and I used a variety of tools (especially pricing strategies and added value) to become a preferred service provider even if I wasn’t the cheapest. But another really helpful strategy was my book The Sales Funnel Bible which helped to demonstrate the importance of great marketing and sales copy all the way through the sales funnel. Prospective clients would read the book and come to understand that those offshore service providers might be cheap but they were just “order takers” – doing whatever work was assigned to them – while I always took my customers’ sales funnel into consideration when thinking about the work I was doing for them.

For a manufacturing client, I recommended that they do something similar: They need to investigate the offshore outsourcing marketplace in their specific industry and write a report on it. The report needs to be THE go-to resource on strategies and best practices to effectively outsource (domestically or internationally) and the report should implicitly position my client as a superior option. (There are many ways to do this effectively and ethically).

This helps put my manufacturing client back into the conversation: They become educators and advocates within their industry of effective outsourcing and they get back into the conversation – ultimately giving themselves a chance to show how their higher-priced product is still superior.

If you run a business that faces stiff competition that seems to be stealing away all of your customers, how can you get back into the conversation?

How to give customers amazing value without being the low-price provider

As much as possible, you should avoid being the low-price provider. That’s a game that no one wins: The low-priced provider attracts bottom-feeding customers that have zero loyalty. (Check out what else I’ve written about price and pricing strategies).

You should set your price at a point you can comfortably operate at and then build a case for value around your price.

But I frequently hear people talk about the problems in their industry and then claim that the only solution is to be the low-price provider since that’s what “all the customers” seem to want.

But this isn’t true. Most customers don’t want to spend the lowest price. (A very small handful do but most customers don’t). Instead, customers want to get the most value. They want to spend a reasonable amount and get a lot in return. (And some are willing to spend much more because they get way more in return).

Your job as a business owner is to find ways to build value into your offer that eclipses the price the customer is able to pay.

Here’s a really basic example: If your industry tends to sell widgets for $5 each because of the sheer price pressure, it’s okay for you to set your price at $10 per widget if you can prove to the prospective customer that they are getting $15 worth of value.

There are three components that need to be in place to make this work:

COMPONENT #1: A DECENT OFFER

You need a core product or service that is as good as, or better than, what your customers can get from the low-priced provider. (If the quality is less than what they can get elsewhere then you’ll diminish your claim of value).

COMPONENT #2: ADDITIONAL VALUE

This is the biggest opportunity. Your low-priced competition might be churning out the products in an off-shore factory for fractions of a penny but what they can’t provide as well are some of the following:

  • Customization
  • Consultation
  • Support
  • Resources

These are very powerful ways to add value because they help the customer get more from your product or service by showing the customer how to use it better, by extending the product or service’s life cycle, by making the product or service more widely applicable in the customer’s life, and more.

COMPONENT #3: YOUR SALES FUNNEL

Your sales funnel’s job is to show the customer not that your offering is low-priced but that your offering is of such an amazing value that they would be foolish to shop anywhere else, even if the price is lower.

And you really can’t do this enough. This isn’t something to downplay. You need to tell it and then tell it again and again and again. By the time your customer reaches the point of sale in your sales funnel, they should be frothing at the mouth and desperate for your offering.

What to do if a competitor is stealing your customers

Early in my career I managed a retail store in a small town. There were only two such stores in town – mine and the competitor’s, and we worked just down the street from each other. For the most part, we each had our own customers but once in a while there was cross-over. His customers would come to my store and mine would go to his. Sometimes I’d see long-time customers of mine at his store and it was dismaying, but I know the reverse is true as well.

Competition is good for business and it’s fun. But it can also be cut throat (even when you maintain a professional, legal approach to your competitiveness).

Although you don’t always know when a competitor is stealing your customers, sometimes you do. Here’s what to do if your competitors are stealing your customers.

NOTE: When I say “stealing” I don’t mean it in an illegal way. There are rules and laws that companies need to play by and I’m making the assumption that both you and your competitor are in fact remaining compliant. When I say “stealing” I mean that your customers are going to your competitors and those competitors are happily serving them.

So here’s what to do…

  • First, decide if the customers are worth the effort. Some customers are not worth the effort. I recall one customer who threatened to go to the competition and it was welcome news to my ears because he bought from me so irregularly and was such a ridiculous amount of work that letting him go freed me up to serve more of my better customers.
  • Build a relationship with your customers. Don’t just tell them that they’re important to you (which is what most businesses do), show your customers that they’re important to you by taking an interest in their lives. For professionals like real estate agents and financial advisors (and some other similar professions), I always recommend that you truly get to know your customers. Send them birthday cards and call them. Send them flowers on their anniversary. If they play on a sports league, go to their games and cheer them on. Don’t be a stalker but be a friend. Check out these 61 questions to strengthen your client relationships and build loyalty.
  • Remind your customers of the value you provide. This is a huge complaint I have with a lot of companies (although if I were honest with myself I’d have to admit that I’m probably just as guilty of this). Once your customers are sold on purchasing from you, most businesses stop selling. But you have to continually “resell” to your existing customers and remind them why they’re buying from you. Otherwise they make the mistake of assuming that your competitor is exactly like you… and as soon as your competitor offers something cheaper, then loyalty is at risk.
  • Wow your customers. Truly wow them by shocking them with how unbelievable your service is. (Hint: This is rarely done).
  • Be proactive. Don’t wait for your customers to come to you. Go to them and help them see that they need to buy more of whatever you’re selling.
  • Constantly ask your customers how you can help. You may find more ways to extend your own products or services but you might not… helping your customers might mean simply understanding what challenges they have in life and making introductions to others who can help them.

The worrisome truth is: Competitors are stealing your customers because you aren’t demonstrating the most important thing: That you are indispensable. Demonstrate that you’re indispensable and prove it over and over again and your competition will eat your dust.

Too many business say they WOW their customers… but few actually do

I hear a lot of businesses talk about giving “WOW” levels of service. But I just don’t see it all that often.

I think we’re at a point now where businesses say that they’re committed to WOW levels of service only because it’s expected that they say it – as if it “WOW Service” is the default text in every website template.

I’ve railed against the assertion of giving “great service” before and I think a similar thing is happening to the word “WOW”. Businesses are devaluing the term because they’re overusing it but falling short on what it really means to WOW customers.

What does “WOW” service really mean?

WOW service should mean that you are delivering a level of service that is so unexpected and shocking that customers exclaim “WOW!”

But what it’s come to mean is: businesses are delivering exactly the same level of service that they always do, which doesn’t really set them apart from the competition and definitely doesn’t WOW the customer.

Does your WOW service really WOW?

  • As the prospective customer moves through your sales funnel, do they express surprise at how much value you give away prior to the sale?
  • During the transaction, does the customer express surprise at how great of a deal they’re getting?
  • After the transaction, does the customer express surprise at how much you continue to serve them even after they’ve already paid?

You need to answer yes to at least one of these (and preferably all three) if you are going to truthfully claim to WOW your customers.