How to develop a unique competitive advantage

Try applying this four-part test

When in business, whether you own the company or are an employee of it, it is important to understand the difference between “unique competitive advantages” and “business strengths.” Many companies will tout their “advantages,” but what they’re really presenting are just their basic strengths and in most cases, are likely only spouting clichés. An example of a common and overused business cliché is: "We will exceed your expectations.”

While business strengths are important, they are not differentiators. You need strengths just to stay in business. You need unique competitive advantages to grow and prosper, faster than your competition.

As the CEO of Christopherson Business Travel, I have approached the development of our unique competitive advantages as a science. I believe this is the only way to succeed in a highly competitive marketplace.

In order for something to be defined as a “unique competitive advantage,” I require that it pass a four-part test:
1.    It must be objective.
2.    It must be quantifiable.
3.    It can’t be a cliché.
4.    It can’t be claimed by our competitors.

For example, one of Christopherson’s unique competitive advantages is AirPortal 360™ Mobile, the first comprehensive mobile app developed to provide corporate travel managers the ability to manage their company’s travel program from their mobile phones.

The introduction of this particular technology garnered a great deal of media attention and we continue to track the number of downloads and usage of the app. Additionally, over the last five years Christopherson has more than doubled in size, growing from a $240 million company in 2010, to a $510 million company in 2014, and has been ranked the eleventh largest travel management firm in the United States by Business Travel News.

Thus, judging by our growth rate, national rankings, media attention, customer usage, and the fact that no other company has developed or duplicated our proprietary technologies—measurables which are objective, quantifiable, not cliché, and can’t be claimed by our competitors—Christopherson can indeed present our technology to be a “unique competitive advantage.”

Taking an opportunity to evaluate claims of “unique competitive advantage” is a valuable exercise for any company of any size. Doing so can only strengthen your business model, marketing, and standing within your industry.

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