There is so much noise in today’s markets, and customers have so much choice and so little time, that if you aren’t distinctive – and distinctively better – you have no cut through. And if that’s the case, then you simply end up competing on price.

The likes of Primark and Poundland may be doing well in today’s struggling economy, but Harrods has also had a record year, and Singapore Airlines has recorded profit growth, as have BMW and Apple.

How can these non-discount brands be doing so well? The answer, of course, is that they provide their customers with outstanding value that is truly distinctive from their competitors. They are advantaged; they are leaders.

It’s your job – as a leader of your business – to ensure that your business has real competitive advantages that can deliver sustainable growth. Here are 10 statements to test whether you’re truly distinctive. How many are true for your business?

  1. Our brand is known to 100% of our target customers, and is both admired and loved
  2. We don’t just attract and keep customers, but generate magnetic customer loyalty
  3. We are the driving force for new ideas and innovations in our market
  4. Over 25% of our revenues come from activities we weren’t doing three years ago
  5. We consistently develop our skills and capabilities, building our strengths still further, and adding new, related capabilities every year
  6. Our organisation sets the standards in our market for performance, integrity and behaviour
  7. A key issue and challenge for us is that our competitors and rivals are constantly trying to copy what we do
  8. We consistently attract top talent, and our leaders and colleagues seek us out ahead of the competition
  9. If you looked at a summary of our strategy, you would immediately recognise that it was for our business and that it couldn’t possibly belong to one of our competitors
  10. Our growth and returns are dramatically ahead of other players in our markets, particularly over a sustained period

How many out of 10 did you score?

9 or 10: Yes, you are distinctive!

6-8: You’re the leading the pack, but there’s no clear blue water

5 or less: Who are you again?

© Stuart Cross 2011. All rights reserved.