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I sat in on a meeting with a professional services firm and a consultant, who made a number of suggestions on how the organization should position themselves in the marketplace. As the consultant outlined his framework, I kept waiting for him to ask the firm why they thought customers should choose them, given the competitive alternatives in the marketplace?

Like the majority of business owners, the firm likely has a few answers to that question. But are their answers compelling enough to win the attention of – and ultimately persuade – the marketplace? In my experience, the answer is a resounding no.

The most common (and ineffective) responses tend to be:

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  • “Our solution is best in class and is designed to fit our client’s needs.”
  • “We’re focused on collaborating with our clients to achieve their objectives.”
  • “Our expertise allows us to address our client’s needs in an efficient manner.”

I could go on, but the point I'm trying to make is that these are not compelling enough to help prospects distinguish you from competitors. Worse yet, if prospects view your organization as similar to another, how do you think they will choose? More often than not, they will decide based on price, and the company with the lowest price is often the one that wins the business.

To avoid his dangerous trap, follow these four growth strategies to build a competitive advantage and go from status quo to compelling:

1. Narrow your focus on the markets you serve. As simple as this strategy may sound, market focus creates competitive advantage. If you cater to a specific market, it becomes far easier to stand out. By focusing on a specific industry or profession, you'll become known as an expert in that space over time.

I realize the idea of narrowing your playing field scares off most businesses, because they fear missing opportunities that may come with a broader focus, but let me tell you this: you'll miss far more opportunities to expand globally and penetrate industries if you do not narrow your focus. I've seen this repeatedly. With greater focus comes greater opportunity.

2. Become a problem solver. When a business focuses on a specific kind of challenge in the marketplace, with time and the right promotional strategy, that business will become known as a true solution provider. Take what you do and decide on two or three core problems that you solve for the marketplace. Not only will this speak to the market's pain points but it will focus your messaging as well.

I work with a technology company that made the strategic decision to become a problem solver by focusing on driving efficiency and cost savings in the area of software development. A large segment of the market now consider them the go-two place for optimizing the software development process and, as a result, they've been able to expand into different geographies including India and Kuala Lumpur.

3. Become results-driven. The ability to deliver a specific result is a compelling proposition in the marketplace. If you can say with certainty that you've been able to achieve a specific set of similar results across multiple organizations you will not only get noticed, but will let you charge a premium because of your track record.

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The key, however, is to be able to prove your results through quantitative data or through specific explanations from the client proving a specific result was achieved.

For example, take the consultant who says, "We work with our clients to drive efficiency and value throughout the supply chain." Now compare that to the consultant who says, "we work with manufacturers to help them remove inefficiency from their supply chain. On average, our solution has saved them XYZ dollars and increased efficiency by XYZ per cent." The latter statement is far more compelling.

4. Create a new category through 'productizing' Whether you like it or not, the marketplace assumes your business delivers services in a similar fashion to your competitors. To avoid this, you need to explore creating a new category by taking what you do and package it into a process and brand it into something tangible.

For example, almost every service provider says, "each client is different with a unique set of circumstances so we take a specific approach for achieving your objectives." There is nothing different or compelling about this approach.

Instead, if you were to create a new category by 'productizing' a set process you could say, "our 360 degree manufacturing engagement solution is a proven method to help you consistently generate XYZ." With this slight shift, you will be able to stand out by seemingly creating something brand new in the marketplace.

My challenge to you When you get in front of a prospect and can position yourself with these strategies in place, you will have something that many organizations will never ever have because they are far too fearful of missing out on something or being too different from their competitors. That in itself is a huge opportunity for the businesses that do take advantage of such strategies.

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Ryan Caligiuri is the founder of Ryan Caligiuri International, a growth consultancy focused on developing programs that generate credibility, competitive advantages, leads/demand and new revenue streams for small to medium-sized enterprises. Mr. Caligiuri is also the founder of The Growth Network, a mentoring program that teaches entrepreneurs and marketers best practices, frameworks and strategies to become business growth generators.

Engage with Mr. Caligiuri on Twitter.

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