The best way to a great strategy is to possess, develop and exploit one or more competitive advantages. This means that your business has a combination of assets and capabilities that your target customers value and which your competitors can’t match.

The essence of competitive advantage is differentiation and that means, of course, being different. Merely doing what your rivals do is not enough. Your competitors will, in most cases catch up with any gains you create. You cannot just be better – you must be distinctive.

And that’s the hard part.

It feels safer, more comfortable and less risky to do variations of what others are doing. Creating something new and different exposes you and feels far more uncertain and dangerous.

And there’s the irony.

If you simply become an imitation of your competitors it’s likely that your business will struggle and decline. You only need to look at many of the me-too rivals to Starbucks, McDonalds or Ryanair, for example.

Differentiation is less risky than imitation. How differentiated is your business?

© Stuart Cross 2012. All rights reserved.