First things first: what/who is JTECH? It’s the former name of a restaurant paging company that eventually became a subsidiary of MICROS Systems. It was founded by a couple of guys from Florida who owned a great restaurant that had too many “walkaways”–people who were not willing to endure the wait for a table seating. In the old days (19990s, mind you!), patrons of their restaurant (like diners in most other establishments) used to have to wait by the hostess stand for an indeterminate amount of time until a table became available. By providing the electronic pager, these guys gave their patrons the freedom–and most importantly, peace of mind–to leave the front door area, relax, and look forward to a sumptuous meal.
But, what of the “true competitive advantage?” To even throw the phrase out suggests that false competitive advantages exist! Don’t they? You be the judge. How many businesses do you know of where price is the main negotiating point in the sales cycle? Unfortunately, way too many. You see, when price becomes the only distinction between a business and its competition, then it is not long before that business enters into a death spiral of decline. At the point that price is all that separates one business offering from another, the battle for customers is lost.
What, then, is a legitimate means of creating a distinctive in the marketplace? Many will argue that Service separates them from others. Alternately, Quality (products) or Experience (Services) are touted as key concepts that persuade one to buy from us versus them. Yet, I have seen over and over (and over !) where these are just words in many situations, without anything to back up the claim–OR anything that is being said that the competition cannot also say!
The original owners of JTECH ended up leasing their restaurant to others because they had found a much better opportunity. It was a great opportunity because and only because they had found a way to monetize the value they had created for restaurants and their customers. True competitive advantage is objective, quantifiable, uniquely claimed, and not a cliche’. (With due thanks to Jaynie L. Smith.)
What was the statement that JTECH developed to carve out such a market -leading position? Of the 50 largest chains who use paging, 100 percent use JTECH! Obviously, they were not able to make this claim Day One. It was something that was earned, one customer at a time. What absolutely amazes is the recurring bad habit in many companies (and agencies) of developing marketing messages without customer input. Existing customers will tell you why they selected you, what you do better than the competition, and what it would take for someone else to snatch the business away. If you don’t know what your customers would say for each of these categories, you are tuned out. If tuned out, you have no strong competitive advantage positioning!