There Is No Such Thing As Sustainble Competitive Advantage

There’s no such thing as sustainable competitive advantage. If anyone tries to sell you that as part of their “consulting package”, you can tell them to knock it off. Differentiation tends to lose its edge over time. 

Competitive advantage by its very definition is a fleeting notion - it’s something you are always going to have to work towards.

The reason?

It’s because people’s tastes, expectations, values change over time. In your business you have to constantly be working towards satisfying the needs of your clients and customers to be successful. No secret there. At the same time though you have to be thinking about ways to continue to create that awesome value while keeping your own overhead and expenses as lean as possible. Again, no soul shattering revelations.

Growing a successful business means you are taking specific actions to deliver specific value. Figuring out or planning for your competitive advantage will in no way, shape, or form guarantee your business’ success.

This post isn’t about finding competitive advantage. It’s about figuring out how to create consistent value for your customers and clients once you recognize it. It’s about creating a repeatable business model.

The quickest way to get your business to grow is to create repeatable systems that will deliver the most value you can and make sure you can do it over and over again.

You’re looking for your “Big Mac”. Seriously. Anywhere in the US you can walk into a McDonald’s, order a “Big Mac” and have your expectations on that product/experience be met. Why? Because McDonald’s makes it the exact same way every time.

You want that! Innovation and disruption are great and absolutely have a place in your business. (It’s even in my business’ name.) But in order to grow your business and to give yourself the room you need to actually test out ideas, products or services you need to record lots and lots of tries. How can you know which changes helped to grow your business when you changed lots of stuff at the same time. Better still, you are changing something on a weekly basis.

I love the Lean Startup model but there is a piece of it I don’t really agree with. The potential customer interviews. Asking people what they want and discovering what they really want are two very different things. You won’t know what people do or don’t want until you ask them to put their debit/credit card information on the line. Here’s how you can work on creating a repeatable business model.

The best advice I can give, in terms of a repeatable business model, is the same advice I give to my clients looking to iterate, pivot or adapt their business. It’s actually a set of questions I want you to give some honest thought to:

1. Do you have a system that tracks the entire customer cycle?

2. Are you using that system every single time you in front of a customer?

3. How big is your market and how many times have you used that system?

4. Are you solving a relevant and specific problem? (Benefits (NOT features) > Costs)

5. Is your value being clearly communicated?

6. Are you changing one thing at a time?

7. How are you measuring success at each stage of your system?

8. Are you following up and asking “why” with your customers after they buy and even when they don’t?

If you don’t have clearly defined and measured answers to any of these questions don’t innovate, disrupt, adapt, or pivot.

You need more data!

Figure out what a fair amount of tries are and work from there. Changing your website every day because your products didn’t sell that day is probably not a fair amount of time to test your copy. Before you go changing everything start trying to isolate possible weak spots in your system and change one major variable at a time. This is how you test your market to see if what you’ve changed resonates better and creates more engagement.

Don’t rush to innovate or pivot. It’s time, money, and emotional energy that you can’t get back and that you probably won’t take the time to measure. Instead focus on the boring - the system. With enough tries you’ll start to see patterns in your business. Patterns with variables you can start to manipulate with intention. That’s the secret to getting the best return on your business.

It also helps to keep you from going crazy. Which, I guess is a good thing too.

How do you handle the impulse to constantly innovate, adapt, pivot, or disrupt? Is there a method to your madness? I’d love to see your system in the comments below.