Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Gabriel Mays – Enjoy!
What’s your competitive advantage? When we hear competitive advantage we often think of what we can see: brand identity, marketing strategy, etc. But with increasingly commoditized products and services, shrinking margins, and copycat competitors we need to look deeper.
According to Wikipedia:
“Competitive advantage occurs when an organization acquires or develops an attribute or combination of attributes that allows it to outperform its competitors.”
So, how you run your business can also be a competitive advantage. It’s an advantage your competitors can’t see and is therefore difficult to copy. But to find these opportunities, we have to think differently.
A Matter Of Perspective
Have you ever seen someone get used to doing something inefficiently? Maybe it’s your mechanic still using paper invoices or your uncle getting up to change the channel on the TV instead of using the remote. For me it’s seeing my father-in-law use a 25ft. phone cord in the kitchen so he could move around and still talk on the phone. I didn’t even know they made phone cords that long. The next day, cordless phones had mysteriously replaced every phone in the house. I’m not sure how they got there, but I can tell you that I bought them at Best Buy…
These are harmless examples of status quo, but this same kind of blindness happens to businesses and even entire industries. We think we’re doing it right by following best practices and doing what everyone else is doing, but unfortunately ‘status quo’ and ‘best practice’ are often synonyms. When we blindly follow best practices, we risk forfeiting any competitive advantage.
Let’s talk about the easiest way for small businesses to gain a competitive advantage in their industry today. Best practices tell small businesses to be more active on their website, blog more, use social media, etc. This advice is great (and works when done right), but the execution is often flawed because we’re just adding more things to an already overflowing to-do list. We end up unfocused and unproductive.
How many tips on improving your business do you read every week? How many do you actually end up using successfully? We’re so busy looking for ways to do more that we miss opportunities to do less, and thus be more efficient. Businesses that figure this out will develop a significant competitive advantage in their market. Here’s how to get started.
Your Most Underutilized Employee
In our rush to embrace the latest trends, we’ve missed the quiet revolution that turned our trusty old website into a powerful source of leverage. Your website is now your most underutilized employee.
The emergence of cloud applications like FreshBooks, Constant Contact, and Salesforce are changing the way we work by bringing enterprise power to small businesses at a fraction of the cost. They’re simplifying accounting, invoicing, project management, CRM, and more with no software to install, maintenance, or personnel costs.
But to take full advantage of these apps we have to leverage our newest, most underutilized employee: our website. It’s already available 24/7 and interacts with customers, so we can use our website as a business hub to integrate cloud apps directly into our workflow.
What would this look like? Imagine a consultant uses cloud apps to manage invoicing, scheduling, CRM, etc. Suppose she’s tired of doing repetitive data entry tasks for each new client and decides to automate by integrating these apps with the website’s intake forms. Now when a client submits a form through her website this happens automatically:
- A draft estimate/invoice is created (FreshBooks, QuickBooks, Xero, etc.)
- Client details are added to the CRM (Highrise, Salesforce, Infusionsoft, Zoho, etc.)
- A project is created in her project management app (Basecamp, Trello, Podio, Asana)
- Attached files (images, documents, etc.) are uploaded and stored (Dropbox, Box, SkyDrive, etc.)
- The client is added to the email newsletter (MailChimp, AWeber, Constant Contact, etc.)
- An intake meeting is added to the calendar
- A text message summary is sent to the consultant (SMS/instant text notification)
This is just an example, but what would your perfect workflow look like? What apps would you use? If you’re not using cloud apps in your business yet, try a few out to see which work best for you. Most have free trials and some even have free plans. When you’re ready, you can integrate them with your website. How you integrate the apps depends on how your website is built and which apps you’re using, but you can do it for under $100.
Your new competitive advantage is a better engine under the hood. It’s better processes, smarter workflows, lower costs, and higher margins. The power of cloud apps will help you do this, and your website will help you automate it all.
“If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.”
– Jack Welch, grew General Electric 4,000% as CEO 1981 – 2001
Gabriel Mays is the Founder and CEO of Just Add Content, which makes affordable, easy to use small business websites. Just Add Content specializes in making cloud app integration accessible to small businesses. Previously Gabe served as a Captain in the Marine Corps for 8 years, spending 2 years between Iraq and Afghanistan operating on small, embedded advisor teams. Visit Just Add Content to get a free email crash course on building a smarter business website!