Your Product Isn’t as Unique as You Think

You had the idea, and you found the niche. You’re the first! There’s nothing like your product out in the market.

You’ve Googled and Binged – and to your excitement – you can’t find a single competitor offering anything similar! Booyah! Smooth sailing, right? Wrong.

But that’s okay. You can do something about it.

We recently sat down with Professor Jay Barney, an expert on sustained competitive advantage and the relationship between costly-to-copy firm skills and capabilities. He has also done research on the actions entrepreneurs take to form the opportunities they try to exploit.

Here are tips for standing out from the crowd:

1. Saying You’re Unique Could Hurt Your Pitch Chances

So, now would be a good time to edit that PowerPoint that you’re planning on using tomorrow for the next pitch. You know, slide two, that says, “Our company is absolutely unique. Nobody like us out there.” Apparently, that can raise red flags during your next competition and pitch, and we can’t have you doing that. We want you to win.

Barney said, “I have done a lot of judging in business pitch competitions, and a red flag to me is when someone says, ‘Our product is absolutely unique and there is nothing out there that is even close.’”

2. Determine Your Competitive Advantages and Exploit Them

There are competitors out there, even if you can’t name them yet. What you need to do is determine what your competitive advantages are and exploit them.

Barney continued on companies that say they have no competitors: “Usually, that means that they haven’t done enough market research, because there’s typically stuff out there. Now it doesn’t mean that yours isn’t better, but then you have to know how to sustain that competitive advantage that you have.”

3. Create a Competitive Advantage Game-Plan

Now is a good time to look at what makes your company so unique. Frameworks such as Five Forces or VRIO are tools that can help you determine how to fend out new entrants and help you keep customers.

Talking about new entrants to your product’s market, Barney said, “People are going to come in. People are going to follow you, and they’re going to bring stuff that you didn’t bring on the table…. You may be unique right now, so low rivalry, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t substitutes, that doesn’t mean there isn’t any threat of new-entry buyers and suppliers as well.”

Document your strengths and weaknesses in each category.

About the Author:

Gavin Van Wagoner Gavin is an MBA graduate from the U and runs, a creative agency focused on helping companies innovate and launch their ideas. As a product designer, he loves to create the product development process and customer journey framework for companies of all sizes. Find him on LinkedIn @gavinvanwagner.

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