Competitive Separation is what makes you or your offer unique, unmatchable. The more unmatchable your offer is, the great the level of competitive separation. Step 1. Determine your current level of Competitive Separation. Step 2. Determine your Aspirational level of Competitive Separation and Step 3. Create a plan to get there.

1. What makes you different?

What makes you different? What are your “Crown Jewels”? Why should your customers care about this difference? How can you leverage this difference to capture new customers and enter new markets? And finally, are you going to develop or acquire your “Crown Jewels”?

“Crown Jewels” are your unique assets that are proprietary to you, hard for competitors to replicate and highly valued by customers. They can be technology patents, size of installed base, disruptive business model, domain expertise, skills and capabilities that are unique to your company. That if developed and positioned properly create sustainable advantages that enable real and measurable competitive separation. We all have them. Sometimes we don’t know what they look like or where they are hiding in our organisation.

2. Who is in your Competitive Set?

Most of us live within the confines of our competitive set. A competitive set consists of you and every other company/capability/offer/product or service that customers perceive as comparable or equivalent. ie. Your customers view you as potential substitutes. Do you have a well-worn list of usual suspects that you compete with? Who is in your Competitive Set today? Should they be? Who will be in your competitive set in 3 years from now? Who would you like to include in your competitive set?

3. Who is your Reference Competitor?

The choice of your Reference Competitor is critical as it determines your position and reveals your competitive aspirations.

Example: Using an aspirational Reference Competitor to create competitive separation.
Are you familiar with Slideshare?” I ask people. “I post my presentations there so program participants can view them and download them, as well as anyone else out there who may be interested.” When I explain what Slideshare is to some people I see their eyes start to glaze over. They just don’t get it. So I ask if they have heard of YouTube? “Yes, of course. Everyone knows YouTube” they answer. “Slideshare is YouTube for Powerpoint.” “OK, now I get it! Now I know what you are talking about. (thank you)” Here competitive separation was achieved without reference to Slideshare’s direct competitors (Brainshark, Sliderocket, Authorstream and others) who are part of Slideshare’s competitive set today.

What is your Competitive Separation strategy?

Start by answering these questions:

  • Who is in your competitive set?
  • Who is your reference competitor (today)?
  • Who is your aspirational reference competitor (tomorrow)?
  • What are your “Crown Jewels”?
  • What are the key buying criteria of the customers that you serve?
  • How will you provide unmatchable value for each of those buying criteria?

Make it happen: lead first, manage second.

*based on ideas from the book: Escape Velocity, by Geoffrey A. Moore, HaperCollins 2011