At Dallas Startup Week recently, we heard from serial entrepreneur Craig Hall about the need to democratize entrepreneurship and shared his example with you for how to do content marketing right. Today, I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Michael Hitt speak to the Free Enterprise Society at Oklahoma State University about “Engaging in Strategic Entrepreneurship: Gaining and Sustaining a Competitive Advantage.” Similarly to Craig Hall, Dr. Hitt talked about the need for both entrepreneurship and strategic innovation in order to achieve a competitive advantage. However, he also stressed the importance of not just gaining but sustaining a competitive advantage.
I’ve written about the importance of a competitive advantage through fostering a culture of innovation before. But Dr. Hitt makes an important distinction that many marketers may brush aside. Many brands do the upfront work to develop a solid and differentiating brand positioning. But they fall short of a continual investment in competitive intelligence that is critical for understanding what is happening in the market as well as where there may be opportunities and weaknesses for your company’s products and services. The following provides you with three ways that investing in ongoing brand evaluation and competitive intelligence will give you the advantage:
Identify opportunities and exploit them.
If you were the disruptor as a startup in an existing category, it’s important not to rest on your laurels. If there are large existing competitors in your industry, they will quickly figure out how to emulate you. In fact, “second movers” will often come in and figure out how to do what you’re doing, only better. It’s important to continually monitor these competitors and not allow them or any of your rivals to get ahead of you.
Actively search for and develop new capabilities.
Including adjacent industries and markets in your competitive research will help identify opportunities more quickly. It’s critical that you think outside the box in this regard. High performing established firms are more likely to only incrementally innovate, because it is less risky. But it takes a brand that is less adverse to risk in order to create novel and meaningful innovation.
Learn from your competitors’ mistakes.
While you can certainly learn from the successes of your competitors, the converse is also true. The failures of your competitors can inform anything from how you market, position and sell yourself to how you execute your distribution or even the key attributes that are essential for your product. There is always something to learn from what hasn’t worked for others in your category.
Remember that defining the point of differentiation for your brand is only the beginning of successfully sustaining a competitive advantage. As Dr. Hitt said, “That’s only where it starts, not where it stops.”