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May 19, 2013

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Competitive Advantage

by Adam Famularo

Identifying your unique sustainable competitive advantage is the most overlooked and most important thing that you can do before bringing a new product to market. This will enable you to capture the most value from your customers while keeping your competitors at bay.

The notion of figuring out what makes you product unique and most importantly how to sustain that competitive advantage for a long period of time is extremely important to the success of your company.

The example I use the most is Apple.  What do you think is Apple’s unique competitive advantage in the marketplace?  Is it the iPhone the iPad or another one of their amazing customer focused devices?

Nope, it’s actually the iTunes store that sets them apart from companies like Samsung and Google today. The iTunes Store is so content rich and easy to use that a user will quickly amass a library of apps, books, music and videos that all can be shared on other Apple devices but cannot be ported to a competitors device. This is Apples greatest unique sustainable competitive advantage in the market place.

It is important to note that what makes something unique today will always change over a duration of time. The notion of sustainability or how long can you withhold the uniqueness of your competitive advantage will be very important for your long-term viability in the market.

You should think deeply on how great of a barrier do you create to keep your competitors from replicating your offering. Going back to the Apple example, it’s not hard to develop your own store front but to negotiate all the various content agreements and then to get a network of developers that are dedicated to your model takes a long time to create. Now, each day that Apple adds a new customer they build a strong bond with the customer through the content that is purchased to run on the device.

Take the time to think through what makes you unique today, features in your product, your network of partners, the content that you provide and then take the next step to think about how hard it is for your competitors to replicate your success. Then what strategies can you put in place to sustain your competitive advantage for a long period of time.

Michael Porter has the best material to study on this topic – a starting book is “Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors”

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