Why you can never stop pursuing competitive advantage Featured

8:01pm EDT May 31, 2011
Kelly Borth, CEO and chief strategy officer, Greencrest Kelly Borth, CEO and chief strategy officer, Greencrest

Driving market impact doesn’t happen by accident. Quite the contrary. Leading companies attribute market strategy as the reason they are in the No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3 position in the marketplace. As CEOs, we know that the only constant we can rely on is that the marketplace will continue to shift, so that means our market strategy needs to shift, too. This is easier said than done when faced with the day-to-day minutia of running a business, but driving market impact is in fact one of our top responsibilities.

Create a strategic marketing foundation

These days more than ever, the marketplace is cluttered with choices. Your chosen strategic position is your company’s brand foundation. So to drive market strategy, you need to know what it takes to do better than average in your industry and know the sustaining sources of competitive advantage. You also need to know how to be a better than average player and know the maneuvers that will get you to the end goal. Industry leaders regularly analyze their market position and keep the company’s competitive advantages focused, clear and sustainable. On the athletic stage, coaches seek out similar advantages in hopes of leading their teams to national championships.

If you read between the lines, you can probably already see that a company will emerge with a huge market advantage if a brand foundation exists. Now take that advantage and create a well-defined, well-executed brand message backed by a strategic marketing plan. When done effectively, this should enable you to penetrate the industry and put you one step closer to market domination.

Throughout a given year, I meet and consult with numerous business leaders. Many of these leaders have a good understanding of the industries they are trying to penetrate, the main competitors and the needs of the market. So they are better than average at understanding the game. Their inability to reach market domination resides in their ability to be a good player. They may have product superiority, but they are seriously brand or marketing handicapped. Sometimes this is a result of a lack of brand clarity, a lack of strategy, a lack of execution and/or a lack of a dedicated marketing budget. All of these are required to achieve and sustain a lead position.

Diversify your plan of attack

It is often said that variety is the spice of life, and you need some variety in your marketing approach. But be careful to make sure that you are in fact making an impact with your marketing spend and not spreading your budget too thin by not being effective in any of your collective efforts. Today, there are more choices in the marketplace to reach customers and it continues to multiply daily. The smaller the marketing budget, the more need to pare down the number of marketing options to those that most effectively and efficiently reach the target audience. In theory, it is better to do one thing well than to do three things mediocre and never reach a level of meaningful market penetration.

The communication choices have grown, but the same marketing science of reach and frequency applies. The biggest difference might be that with the birth of social media, you need to listen and participate differently than more traditional ways of the past. Social media doesn’t replace traditional media, at least not yet. But its presence has changed the game. It’s still important to reach your target audience, just through a different mix of mediums and you still need to touch your audience enough times so that your message is being penetrated and heard. You also need to make sure your marketing program is reaching all of the audiences you need to achieve your goals — new customer acquisition, retention and growth of current customer revenue, and generating overall industry awareness of your brand.

Kelly Borth is CEO and chief strategy officer for GREENCREST, a 20-year old brand development and strategic marketing firm that turns market players into market leaders. Kelly has received numerous honors for her business and community leadership. She serves on several local advisory boards and is one of 25 certified brand strategists in the United States. Reach her at (614) 885-7921 or kborth@greencrest.com, or for more information www.greencrest.com.