Competitive Advantage

By Bruce Lacroix © 2009

Bruce Lacroix is a middle-aged triathlete, small business & tourism consultant, speaker and writer. He lives in Nelson, BC, and has clients in Canada and the Caribbean.

Something to think about: if you are a new
business, there are only two ways for you to
get customers. Either people have never
tried anything like what you are offering
before, and you convince them to try your
product or service before anyone else’s, or
they are already buying from the
competition, and you try to convince them to
leave the competition and come to your

In both cases, the question becomes, “Why
should they buy from you, and not the
competition?” If they have never tried
anything like what you are offering, why
should they now? If they already are or can
buy from the competition, why should they choose you instead? The answer to these
questions is your competitive advantage.
Watch out for: “we have no competition!

Remember, you want great answers to the
question your target market asks or thinks:

  • Why should I buy from you, and not from the competition
  • What can you do different or better than your competition, that the target market wants?
  • What’s the benefit to the customer?

This benefit can be actual, like “Your pizza
delivered in 30 minutes or it’s free,” orperceived, like TV commercials that
show very attractive people using the
product. The perception is that if you
use the product, you will be seen as
attractive also.

To help answer that, let’s take a look at
why people buy?
Why do people buy what you have for
sale? What motivates them? What are
they hoping to “get” from the purchase?

Example 1: Why do people go to
restaurants? Just to eat? Well, how

  • to celebrate
  • as a change of pace
  • because they can’t / don’t want to cook
  • to meet with friends
  • to be seen
  • to kill some time between other things
  • to experience new foods
  • as part of the travel experience
  • because they are hungry and this restaurant is the right one at the right time
  • because they are lonely and want to be around others
  • to get away from family and friends for a while
  • as a place to hold a meeting or do business
  • as a place to take a date
  • and other reasons

More on Competitive Edge

The point is, people don’t just go to a
restaurant to eat. Other motivating
factors are at play. They sometimes
want more than just an “eating”

So now the next question becomes,
“Why would people want to go to your
western-themed restaurant?” What can
you do differently or better than the competition, that the target market

Beware of just saying that your
competitive edge will be “we provide
better quality and service.” What is
“better”? You have to define and give
examples of HOW you will provide
better service and quality. Your edge
must be seen as a benefit to the

Example 2:

Let’s say you plan on
starting a First Nations tourist lodge
on Vancouver Island. There are many
others, but you believe that you will
be able to offer better service as a
competitive advantage. How? By
offering airport pick up and drop off,
telling stories of the traditional
potlatch ceremonies, filming and
providing a DVD of the guests’
experiences, and giving all guests a
fleece vest with your business logo on
it (of course, you must add all these
features into the price.) None of your
competitors do any of these, and your
market research shows that your
target market wants and is willing to
pay for them.

These principles can be applied to
any business. Once you have
competitive advantages, then it’s
time to make sure your target
markets know them.

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Funded in part by the Government of Canada's Opportunities Fund for Persons with Disabilities
"The opinions and interpretations in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Government of Canada."
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