“The information revolution is sweeping through our economy. No company can escape its effects.”
~ Michael E. Porter ~
Client Dorothy Asks: I work in IT. Of course I’m surrounded by a world of information. But as you know, it’s a cut-throat business with thin margins. How can I use our information to create a competitive advantage for us?
Coach Joel Answers: It may sometimes feel like we have information overload. However, we may lack the right information, not know how to process it, and not understand what to do with it after we understand it.
It is essential to have information based on some specific criteria to create the best competitive advantage to you. Here are some areas to consider.
- Look at the trends. First, of course, you want to examine trends in your own industry. But you can also learn a lot by looking at factors that are influencing other industries. You may find advancement there—in technology or information processing—that you can use to gain an edge on the competition.
- Analyze what your competitors are doing. Do you see fast moving companies? What’s generating that growth? Is it something you can copy? What do you see as their competitive edge? How can you improve on it for your own company?
- Listen to your clients. One of the ways to success is to give your clients exactly what they want and need. The only way you’ll learn this is by spending time with your clients. Don’t try to sell them stuff. Just listen and ask questions. You want to understand their business and their needs.
Then get your salespeople and designers together and create solutions for their problems. This strategy will allow you to beat out your competition by turning your clients’ problems into an advantage for your company.
- Look for disruptive factors. The world is changing at a rapid pace. Things we’ve done suddenly become obsolete. What technological advancements are likely to make your company obsolete if you don’t change?
Have you insisted on in-person training for your products? Take advantage of innovative online video training. Perhaps couple it with access to coaching 24/7. Master information transfer this way, and you save travel costs and boost the efficiency of your current trainers.
- Avoid bias. As you take in your information, how do you adjust for bias? Every information recorder or human processor carries his or her own bias or agenda. You can’t eliminate it, but it helps to know it’s there so you can adjust.
- Process correctly. You know how quickly information changes. So you need a method of processing the information quickly. It needs to arrive in a useful format. You may not be able to offer the material in different ways to suit the desires of each executive. So it may take training to help your executives understand how to process the facts they are given.
If they don’t understand the information, its value or how to use it, you’ve lost the battle to beat out your competitors.
- Take Advantage. All the knowledge and information based technology won’t help you if you don’t use it. Look for ways to improve your product. Check possibilities to create more value for your existing clients and how to expand your market to new ones. Employ innovations that step up your company in skills, prestige, and achievement.
I applaud you for not underestimating the value of information. Based on what you’ve learned, you should be able to gain and keep an advantage over your closest competitors.
If you’re looking for ways to make sense of the information you have to boost your strength against your competition, contact Joel.
Talkback: How have you used information to gain an edge over others in your field?
Image courtesy of basketman23 / Fotolia.com
“Information technology and business are becoming inextricably interwoven. I don’t think anybody can talk meaningfully about one without the talking about the other.”
~Bill Gates ~
Client Ann Asks: I worry that we are not standing out from the competition. My IT Director says that we can gain a competitive advantage through information technology, but I’m not sure how to do this. Can you give me some ideas?
Coach Joel Answers: Ann, you are right on target. It’s vital that your company outshine other similar companies in order to maintain market share. You need things that help you work smarter, faster, and at a cheaper cost. Information technology can help you do all of that.
Let’s look at nine ways to improve your bottom line, support the team effort, handle paperwork, and gain more loyal customers.
When you employ some of these IT systems, you’ll feel more in control, you’ll save time, and you’ll see results.
1. Web Presence. Help your business be easily found. Make your website inviting, informative, and easy to navigate. You’ll find you’re converting visitors to buyers faster and more often.
2. E-commerce. Expand beyond your brick-and-mortar store. A.J. Madison started as a simple store in Brooklyn New York, selling to locals. Its expansive e-commerce site now has it sending appliances into all 50 states. This is a huge competitive advantage. Make sure your IT allows different online payment methods.
3. Supply Chain Management. A good IT program can make sure you have products exactly when you need them. It can manage your inventory as well as the clerical supplies that keep offices running.
4. Customer Relationship Management. Nothing can destroy your business faster than poor customer relations. And few things can give you a better competitive advantage than a host of loyal customers. Use information technology to help you follow up with customers, hear and respond to complaints, and segment your customers to reward larger spenders.
5. Automation Software. Your automated programs can track numbers of sales, customers, and transaction details. It can make those numbers available across a variety of documents for taxes, customer follow up, and financial accounting. Paperwork is not glamorous, but when you save hours and dollars with excellent software, it becomes cool.
6. Collaboration Software. Quality programs help teams work together. It allows documents to easily be shared. On a basic level it connects computers, applications, printers, and internet connections. These simple steps save you time and money. They also make a more productive and satisfied, team.
7. Web Design. Each company wants to stand out. With your unique website you can differentiate your products from your competitors.
8. Client Segmentation. Don’t waste your advertising dollars on clients who won’t buy. Use software to focus on those who do. Sophisticated information systems segment your list so you can target new buyers and big spenders and spend little time on “lookers.”
9. Privacy. Use IT to protect the confidential information of your customers and employees. Nothing breaks trust with your customers like a hacker stealing their credit information from your site. That extra layer of information technology can give you a competitive edge against other businesses in your field.
Ann, you don’t even need to use every one of these programs right away. Choose the two or three areas in your business that could most benefit from streamlining, and start there.
Soon you’ll find ways your competitive advantage is bringing in more clients and more income for your company. Information technology really does let you work smarter, faster, and with a lower cost.
To learn how your company can blow your competition out of the water, contact Joel.
Talkback: What programs or software have you used to give your business an advantage?