“How do I stand out from the crowd?”
Whether you’re a training provider, coaching professional or consultant, this is probably something you’ve thought about before. You know you offer a great service, but what tells a potential client that you are the best solution for the challenges they are facing?
When there’s so much competition for the work that you do, defining your competitive advantage is crucial to success. In this blog post, we’ll help uncover how training providers can identify this for their business.
“Spending time developing your competitive advantage is crucial to the long-term success of any business” says Janet Doran, a prominent business coach based in Harrogate. “With improvements in technology and communication, training providers are no longer simply competing locally but nationally and even internationally.”
Janet understands the training provider perspective better than most and has developed her own approach to competitive advantage, composed of three distinct aspects:
1. Your business identity – understanding the core competencies, resources & capabilities of your business (what are you able to do better than the competition?)
2. Your target market. This the audience which you choose to serve. You can’t be everything to everyone and choosing to focus on a specific market allows you to really delight those customers. Instead of thinking of mass market appeal consider the minimum viable market to achieve your business goals.
3. Creating a service/product that really delivers on those target customer needs. Your customer understanding should go beyond the functional elements such as quality, price, ease of use. Companies that understand deeper needs, such as supporting their ability to grow, providing access to others or enhancing their reputation, build meaningful long-term relationships and lock out the competition.
With these three factors in mind, we can begin to uncover what makes your business unique and worthy of remark.
So what makes your service better than everyone else?
There it is, the million dollar question. Identifying and communicating your competitive advantage means your customers will have a clearer understanding of the advantages of choosing your services over the alternatives. In turn, that’ll help you stand out from the crowd and avoid being invisible among the masses.
There are many different sources of competitive advantage for training providers. Here is a list of some possible examples, see if any of these stack up for your business:
What level of service do you provide as a training company? Does it go deeper than your competitors? By providing a service that is of a higher standard than your competitors you are immediately differentiating yourself positively.
However, the challenge here is proving this. Do you have outstanding testimonials from your clients? Do you have independent reviews through sites like reviews.co.uk? Do you have a Net Promoter Score you can publish? These are the kind of (credible) evidence you will be looking to provide to validate your competitive advantage based on quality.
When your service is benchmarked or accredited by credible bodies or organisations, be sure to promote these across all of your marketing materials.
How do your services make the most of your client’s investment? The businesses you work with want to maximise the impact of your service as possible, and ideally, as quickly as possible too. Can you provide measurable, quantitative proof of the impact of your work through a calculated return-on-investment? When pitching to potential clients, discuss what success looks like and how you can measure this to provide hard evidence of the impact of what you do.
Sure, you’re more than equipped to train the managers within a business, but are you equipped to train all of their workforces? Can you do this through face-to-face, online or blended delivery? Being a reputable single supplier for a specific business challenge (or several challenges) can be a real advantage.
Being able to broader service is one of the key reasons why we’re helping more and more training providers taking their services online.
Long-term partnership, rather than short-term wins
How are you able to provide continual support in businesses where it is needed? Perhaps offering an on-going support and training system, whether it be face to face, purely online or blended, could be a good way to make your business unique. While face-to-face training is great at getting people together and providing short bursts of value, it’s often interventions over time that have the biggest impact. Again online learning can be a great enabler of this.
Increasingly we’re seeing the world turn to subscription-based goods and services, particularly with a move towards digital offerings (think of how Blockbusters once reigned supreme, now Netflix has taken over). As a training provider, this could be a possibility for you as well. Instead of training face to face, you could provide an online destination with access to all of your courses (which is continually updated) hereby giving your audience access to a lifetime supply of value. Can you use the business model canvas to think of innovate ways of providing your services that are different from the competition?
Reputation and relationships
If you’ve built up a strong reputation through consistent (and demonstrable) excellent results, then some clients may want to be involved with you to benefit from a brand perspective, merely by association. If you’ve positioned yourself as the best in the market, then work may naturally flow. Therefore it’s always worth considering the circles you are working in, and how you can build a strong brand that organisations will want to be associated with.
Unique product inclusions
One way you can differentiate yourself from the rest of the market is by providing your clients with access to unique products and services that nobody else provides. If it makes you unique then it qualifies as a competitive advantage and can help you become the purple cow in your sector.
If you’re struggling to identify a competitive advantage for your training business that could apply to you, then it may be time to make some changes.
“You don’t find your USP – you have to build one” says Janet. “Making bold choices about what you will and more importantly won’t do will make your business proposition simple to understand, attractive to your ideal customers and easier to refer.”
Here are some quick action steps you identify your competitive advantage and differentiate your business:
- Speak with your existing clients. Ask them why they choose you – can you build a long-term competitive advantage around what they say?
- If you can, contact those that didn’t buy from you. Can you find out why?
- Speak with any potential customers you may want to target. Ask them what they would like from a training provider like yourself? What would make the difference between a sale and looking elsewhere?
- Look at your competition. Are they clearly communicating their competitive advantage? What could you do differently?