Strategic Planning: Take Advantage of Your Advantages - dummies

Strategic Planning: Take Advantage of Your Advantages

By Erica Olsen

If you have time to work on only one part of the strategic planning process, take time to formulate your competitive advantage. By knowing what you’re best at, you can focus on what matters for success and profitability.

You don’t have to wait until your strategic plan is complete to put your competitive advantages to work for you. Focusing on your competitive advantages can have a tremendous impact on your business. Because your list of advantages are probably things you’re already doing, you can start doing them better or even start talking about them to raise the level of awareness in and outside of your company.

Implement your competitive advantages now

Competitive advantages can be utilized in so many ways outside of just your strategic plan. Get creative with how you can make your advantages come to life. Here are some ideas:

  • Use your competitive advantages in your marketing material. Turn them into a tag line. Use them in a press release. Add them to your corporate About Us page on your website.

  • Communicate the advantages daily. Include your competitive advantages in your signature line on your e-mail. Add a line in your voice mail greeting or your automated voice attendant.

  • Tell your employees. Post your advantages in a common area. Add them to your internal blog.

  • Refine your advantages by obtaining feedback from your customers. Ask a few of your best clients whether they agree with your list of advantages. Improve or add to it based on their responses.

  • Make them better. Develop a handful of 30-day actions that you and your staff can start working on to make your competitive advantages even stronger.

Measure your competitive advantages over time

Now that you’ve got it, why not try to find a way to quantify your most important competitive advantage and promote that quality about your company? Do you have the metrics that matter and support monitoring your uniqueness? Find a way to support your claim through numbers that you can use to answer, “Why us?”

Establishing a measurement based on a core element of your business elevates the importance in your organization and helps you monitor whether you’re sustaining the advantage or letting it slip. Industry data can be helpful in identifying how to quantify your competitive advantage. Referral statistics and retention rates offer other opportunities. Here are other places to look:

  • Inventory turns

  • Delivery times

  • Return rates

  • Satisfaction rates

  • Guarantees

  • Terms

  • Referral rates

Write your advantages into your strategic plan

Your strategic plan needs to include a section that states your competitive advantage. But you can also include it in full or parts of it in other areas of your plan. Here are a few ideas:

  • Include the intent of your competitive advantage in your mission statement.

  • Use the information you collected from your customers and employees to start the list of your strengths and weaknesses.

  • Develop long-term goals that make your competitive advantage sustainable.

  • Include measures to monitor your competitive advantage.

Most importantly, you use your competitive advantages as a yardstick for every part of your strategic plan. Evaluate your strategic plan based on how well each section supports your competitive advantages.

Thinking about what you do best helps you build the strongest foundation possible for your business. When you’re looking at your list of competitive advantages, be careful that your strategies do nothing to weaken your company’s competitive advantage or take away from the key capabilities that got you where you are. Remember, now that you’ve identified your DNA, everything should grow from these cells.