MaRS Library Defining your competitive edge: Product positioning in your target market
Read time: 3 mins
Read the highlights
- It’s critical to create a competitive edge for your product within your target market.
- To distinguish and position your product, be the first in the market and leverage your expertise to establish leadership.
- Work constantly to maintain your competitive edge.
- Quality, customer service and price do not provide a competitive edge.
Define your competitive edge by finding different ways of being unique in the marketplace. By differentiating your product, service, personnel or brand, you can establish a unique position in your market.
In today’s crowded market, many products can more easily mimic each other in terms of their attributes and offered benefits. The following strategies can help to distinguish your offering in the market and create a competitive edge.
Be first in the market
Buyers tend to stay with what they know. By being first to market, you will be able to take advantage of having no competition with your offering (also known as the first-mover advantage). However, it can take time to gain market acceptance of new ideas, and being first does not last forever.
Leverage your expertise: Establish leadership
Being perceived as an expert in your market bestows on you a level of trust, which transfers to your products. You can establish leadership in different areas, such as technology, science or sales. Develop your reputation and expertise with knowledge-sharing activities, such as writing blogs, articles or white papers, or presenting webinars.
Focus your market expertise
Establish your expertise by focusing on one particular niche to develop market specialization. Your market-specific expertise will set you apart from the competition. For example, instead of concentrating on a wide market encompassing all doctors, zero in on a niche within that market, such as pediatricians. This would enable you to specialize in, and appeal to, a pediatrician’s particular needs. Otherwise, your offering may not hold enough appeal to the wider audience to give you an advantage over your competition.
Make your products stand out as new and improved
Study your competitors and learn how they target a market problem. Ensure that the problem is an important one, and that your solution is better. Then reposition this market problem with your own unique solution. You can capitalize on your competitors’ marketing, but make sure to position your product as the“next generation.” For example, when microwave ovens were flooding the market, new entrants adjusted their positioning by marketing their products as “speed cookers” that evenly cooked food, a significant improvement over their microwave counterparts.
Note: By identifying market problems, you might see a problem/solution in a different way than your competitors, which will give you an advantage.
How to maintain your competitive edge
Once you have defined your competitive edge, you must work to maintain that upper hand. Your competitors will constantly work to improve their products and build their expertise, and so should you. Strive to ensure that your product continually solves your customers’ problems in new ways. By focusing on this goal, you can stay ahead of your competitors.
What is not a competitive edge
Avoid focusing on the following areas or characteristics, as they will not set you apart from your competition.
Quality and customer orientation
Although it is important to manufacture good quality products and be customer-oriented, these factors will not set you apart from the competition. Since your product is on the market, the tacit understanding is that the quality is good.
It is assumed that you will work diligently to ensure customer satisfaction. This alone will not keep those customers coming back to you. According to Jack Trout, in Differentiate or Die, it was found that 40% of satisfied customers would change brands without looking back.
Although pricing your products below market price might attract some buyers, it will not differentiate your product for long. Being cheaper than an alternative will not position you as unique. It will place you in a weak position because your competition could change their price to match yours at any time.
Breadth of line
Based on the success of “superstores,” you might be tempted to become“everything to everyone.” However, this is not differentiation. You might solve some problems for some customers, but it is more likely that you will not fully solve any customers’ problems.
Provide a specific solution to ensure that you solve real problems for a specific target market.
Summary: It’s critical to create a competitive edge for your product within your target market and to work hard to maintain this position against your competition.
Moore, Geoffrey A. (2002).Crossing the Chasm. New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc.
Trout, Jack. (2001). Differentiate or Die: Survival in Our Era of Killer Competition. New York: John Wiley and Sons.