Competitive Strategies Today
The Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness, based at the Harvard Business School, defines competitive strategy as “how a company competes in a particular business (note: overall strategy for diversified firms is referred to as corporate strategy). Competitive strategy is concerned with how a company can gain a competitive advantage through a distinctive way of competing.” Given the current economic climate, it is more essential than ever that all organizations – corporate, non-profit, education, etc. – be able to demonstrate their particular worth to those buying their products and/or services. For many organizations, this exercise is extremely challenging. So, we asked wise executives, how have you helped your organization to determine, develop, or implement its distinctive way of competing?
“The most potent way is the least quantifiable. And, that is by creating a cohesive culture among our managers and associates. When we think and act along coordinated channels, we become maximally efficient. Our message to clients, prospects and strategic partners is unified and credible.” Bob Fragasso, The Fragasso Group
“We began the review of our competitive strategy by reexamining our programs from the eyes of our clients. To be more objective, we used a third party to survey about twenty of our program sponsors, covering both our key clients as well as a representative spectrum of our existing business. The survey confirmed what is important to this group and also identified what we specifically provide that is both unique and valuable to them. Armed with this knowledge, we then set out to compete based on our strengths, rather than having any focus on competitors’ potential weaknesses. Our next task was to sharpen our messages and determine the most effective ways to convey them. Once again, we studied our existing program sponsors to examine how they get their information and what sorts of values they have. This has resulted in a strategy that might be considered unconventional, but is unique to both our programs and our market. Only after we clearly identified our strengths and the preferences of our market did we look at any competitors. Our strategy is based on what we do best and what is the best way to communicate that to our market of both existing and potential sponsors, and it proved to be a worthwhile exercise for us – one should be repeated periodically!” Dave Munk, Program Director, Resource Action Programs
“I feel it is important to involve all employees in an effort to define the organization’s worth. I have found that in many cases “front-line” employees are more easily able to define how we are different from the competition, which gives me incredibly valuable information when marketing our services. We continually keep “front-line” employees involved in communicating these messages in a variety of ways, including having potential clients actually talk with high-achieving “front-line” employees. We also spend a great deal of time creating long-lasting strategic partnerships with other non-profit organizations and corporations, which not only strengthens our organization but also contributes to defining the organization’s worth and distinctiveness.” Tom Keefe, $1 Energy Fund
“The competitive strategy of The HDH Group starts with listening to what our clients tell us they need. From there, we add:
- a business model that promotes world class client service;
- service teams with skill sets that meet or exceed those client needs
- expertise in our clients’ industries.
Then, it’s a matter of continually improving faster than our competitors and strategically marketing our capabilities to companies faced with challenging employee benefits, commercial insurance, and risk management issues.” Marshall Wunderlich, Vice President, The HDH Group
“The hotel industry business climate has been challenging for several years. To succeed in the current economic time, a corporation must remember to resort to those practices that have been successful in creating a competitive edge. Past customer relationships are especially critical today. Make sure you know your customer’s wants and needs. . . .those may have changed over the years. Be prepared to adjust your business to meet those changes. Stay flexible! Listen to your client. Keep all members of your staff in the loop and knowledgeable of any changes. Don’t take any business for granted. Work as hard for the repeat order as you did to get the original piece of business. Stay involved as the senior account person. Show the client how much you appreciate their business. Price alone will not keep customers happy… service is the top priority.” Bill McDonald, Director of National Accounts, Hyatt Regency Phoenix
“Those of us in consulting practices are selling our professional and personal credibility. My competitive edge comes from (1) preserving the positive impressions of me and my capabilities by those who already know me by virtue of the high quality of my work, (2) apprising those in my growing network about my distinctive abilities, and (3) finding ways to leverage that positive perception with others who don’t know me through testimonials, referrals and situations where they can ‘sample my wares’. It is all about creating trusting relationships; they take a long time to build but can be scuttled in a flash by an ethical shortcut or unfulfilled commitments. Lastly, I talk not about what I know but in terms of the desired outcomes I can help clients achieve.” Dick Headley, President, The New Millennium Group, Pittsburgh, PA
“Project SHARE does benefit from the usual competitive strategies such as a major ad campaign featuring former President Jimmy Carter. However, our most vital strategy is aggressively fostering our reputation for fairness and integrity. Trust is the “coin of the realm” in the non–profit sector more so than ever, and it is a competitive edge that is difficult at best.” Michael J. Bradford, Director, Project SHARE, The Salvation Army
“I’ve competed more effectively than competitors by being the most accommodating vendor any of the clients have ever worked with. For example, I allow cancellations the day before at no charge. I make sure the clients’ training coordinators do not fail in the eyes of their employers, and then I become pretty special to the “buyers” of my services. And I adjust the price to fit reduced training budgets. Then, I have created “shared” training to increase my revenue. Under this plan, the host organization gets about four free places in my seminar but then it helps advertise to other public and private organizations in the area. I actually make more money that way.” Al Guyant, Consultant, Capital Communications