October 23, 2012

The Secret Sauce: Being Distinct Is Better

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July/August 2009 Issue | Volume 35 Number 5 | Page 13


The Secret Sauce: Being Distinct Is Better

Strategic wisdom has it that you need to identify what you can do really well if you’re going to best the competition. This is important advice, but it’s not sufficient. Often your core competency is the same one your competitor has. So unless your competency is seen as markedly better in your clients’ eyes, you have no meaningful differentiation, zip advantage, nada uniqueness.

The key to marketplace uniqueness is having some distinct capability or attribute that makes you clearly superior to competitors in something that clients care about. Distinct competencies are the very heart of strategy. Here are a few questions you need to think through:

  • Is there one market niche that you can dominate? Be the expert your prospects and clients want. Try to choose one niche that you can serve extremely well and stick with it.
  • Do you know your clients better than they know themselves? You must dig deep to uncover clients’ current desires, fears and aspirations—and know what they will need tomorrow.
  • Do your clients receive a level of service beyond anything provided by any competitor? World-class service means delivering a memorable experience to each client in a way that your clients— and your competitors—will find difficult to match. The “trusted advisor” is the one thing that can never be commoditized.
  • Can you offer a compelling value proposition? Whether you achieve it by proposing alternative fees, providing complimentary services or reusing existing work product in cost-effective ways, clients are looking for an advisor who delivers value at predictable cost.

Your distinct competency is the secret sauce, the get-out-of-jail-free card, the force field that yields more and better business. I can think of no other objective more worthy.

About the Author

Patrick J. McKenna consults on competitive strategy and conducts special programs for new managing partners.