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To survive and prosper, a small company must establish a marketing presence based upon a sustainable competitive advantage.

Let’s begin to explore this principle (which makes it easy for people to buy from you) by first defining some terms:

Marketing presence is the message your business communicates to its prospect and customer base. To be effective, the message should be clear and simple — and contain the key attributes you want associated with your business.

Competitive advantage is the sum of those attributes that differentiate your business from its competitors. This is your core competence. You develop, build and enhance it through a clear understanding of your customers’ wants and needs. You implement it through a strategic plan (a directional compass) that can help you quickly adapt to changes in their wants and needs.

Sustainable means to keep in existence, to maintain and affirm the validity of, to support the spirit, vitality and resolution of, to encourage, to endure and withstand. Only through your continuous understanding of what makes your business competitive can your business survive and prosper. GE’s CEO, Jack Walsh, once said, “If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.”

Since it takes two — a buyer and a seller — to make a sale, the reason for establishing a viable marketing presence is for your business to be on the prospective buyer’s “short list” when the buyer is ready to buy. You want to be sure that your company is among those being evaluated when the prospect’s need arises.
When you think about your competitive advantage, consider that in your prospects mind your company “fits” into some category. For example, you are either a “low-cost” or “value-added” supplier. A low-cost supplier is categorized as one who consistently provides a lower cost with acceptable quality. A value-added supplier provides a differentiated product or service that contains substantial attributes which command a premium price.

Likewise, your are either a “generalist” or a “specialist”. A generalist is categorized as having a broad scope — serving all types of customers in an industry or geographical area, offering a broad range of products or services. A specialist focuses on specific products or services and dedicates all efforts to that one niche or market segment.

The key element in your thinking should be to make a difference. You must take the risk to create a recognizable choice from your rival companies. Your worst error here would be trying to imitate rival companies or trying to be all things to all people.

As you think strategically about establishing your market presence, consider this process:

Conceptualize your strategy — this is pure and analytical.

Engineer general agreement to the strategy — here you are muddling over the practicality of what you want to do and sharing your ideas with others and getting their input.

Prepare a mission statement and business plan — to discover and clarify what business you are in how you plan to approach it.

Communicate the statement and plan — both internally and externally.

Live the plan — if all the steps feel right, start to implement the plan — but with the full expectation, knowledge and intent that you will continuously adjust and adapt it to market changes.

This Marketing Contributed Content article was written by John Agno on 3/1/2005

TEN article by John Agno, 734-426-2000, Signature Inc., a marketing consulting firm in Ann Arbor, MI. Email:
Provided by: The Entrepreneur Network