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Using SWOT to Define Your Super Powers: Competitive Differentiation

When small and midsize businesses are asked to define their competitive differentiators, typically they produce a list of fairly general attributes that they believe set them apart from their competitors. These same business owners or marketing teams often miss the mark on their true competitive differentiation because they aren’t doing one (or both) of these things:

  • looking at the entire SWOT. as a whole; or
  • looking at their company from their customer’s perspective.

Finding your strengths and weaknesses while also identifying your opportunities and threats is critical to understanding your competitive advantages and improving your company’s bottom line. 

This is the stuff of competitive differentiation, and it means being different in a way that appeals to your customers, which ultimately will help you identify your ideal customer profile (ICP) and generate more leads equating to more sales!

In fact, Forbes notes that standing out from your competition is actually critical to your success.

Start with a SWOT analysis

It’s a great idea for every business to start off understanding where they are at this moment. To do this, you will need to complete a competitive analysis which includes  an assessment of your company’s SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats).

You’ll find that by assessing your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, knowing where to place your resources to ensure your marketing success is much easier.  Additionally, once you have uncovered a list of all of your strengths and weaknesses and have identified potential opportunities and threats to growth, you’ll have the basis of your competitive analysis. 

There’s often a lot of anxiety about the SWOT analysis, but there doesn’t have to be. Identifying what your company does well and where you might improve is actually a pretty revitalizing exercise. 

What is a superpower, anyway?

A superpower is a strength that you uncover that sets you apart from your customers in a way that is meaningful to them. It is a specialized quality that your business does best in the industry. It’s what helps put you above your competition.

Not every strength you have as a small business can be called a superpower though! 

Customer service is a great example. We all say that we have great customer service. And that may be true.  However, as Brooke DeRam of Tomato Fish Marketing says, something like great customer service is not enough to qualify as a “superpower” unless you are a company such as Amazon.

Simply being good or even being better than your competition isn’t a true differentiator. What you need to be in today’s world is better and different.

Here are some questions to get you thinking:

  1. What do you do best? 
  2. What do you do on a regular basis for your customers that separates you from your competitors?
  3. Why would your customers choose you over a competitor?

Types of competitive differentiators

By now you are most likely getting an idea of what makes your business stand out to your customers.  If you need some inspiration, try looking at these types of differentiators when defining your superpowers: 

  • product differentiatorsWhat makes your product or service stand out from your competitors?
  • brand differentiators What unique feature or benefit separates you from your competitors?
  • price differentiators What unique pricing strategy do you offer your customers?
  • service differentiatorsIn what ways is design and delivery of your service unique and valuable?
  • channel differentiatorsWhat channels are you uniquely positioning for your company to gain the competitive advantage?
  • people differentiatorsAre you hiring and training better than your competitors in order to provide the best possible product or service to your customer?

So, to find your superpowers, here’s what you need do:

  • Do a mind dump of what your competitors do.  You may not know everything, but do your best.
  • Then, take all those things you have identified and rank them, best to worst. 


  • Write down all the things that your company does.  Again, ALL of them!
  • Then, take all those things that you do and rank them similarly to the way you ranked your competitors.
  • Review your list and make sure you are considering all of the types of differentiators listed above.

At that point, you’ll have some great information with which to determine what differentiates your business from your competitors. And if you couldn’t answer the mini-quiz earlier in the post, you most certainly can now!

Understanding your superpowers

So yes, your business must be and do things different from your competitors…but these differences must be looked at from your customer’s perspective and resonate with them.

Remember the quiz question #3: Why would your customers choose you over a competitor? Brand leadership expert Denise Lee Yohn points out nine ways that you can use your key differentiation points out to really stand out from the crowd:

  1. Find your target market and talk to them.
  2. Take one key quality or characteristic from your business and own it! 
  3. Highlight any unique ingredients or specs in your product.
  4. If you have a proprietary method of making your product, let the world know.
  5. In addition if there are any claims…like the first ever or best ever made, then talk about it.
  6. Your back story can be really important and worth bringing up. How and why did you get started?
  7. Are there any special technologies or patents that will set you apart if you let the world know about them?
  8. Have you got some great testimonials and endorsements? Use them!
  9. Finally, you can differentiate yourself by your own people. Think about what unites them and makes them special at your business.

It’s all part of your marketing foundation

Understanding your real, differentiating superpowers is the basis for creating a strong marketing foundation

It’s vital to assess where you are before you attempt to execute any marketing strategies. Having that knowledge will help you know where to focus your efforts and where to allocate your resources. In addition, having a strong marketing foundation will allow you to move forward in finding leads and making sales.

But if you have some gaps in that foundation, the best thing to do is to work on finding out what those gaps are and then fix the problems. You may need to have better brand awareness or you may need to have a better customer relationship management system.

If you are curious about where your program may have weaknesses in the marketing foundation, take our short marketing foundation quiz and get an instant report of your score in each of the four key areas that indicate the strength of your marketing foundation. 

Already taken the quiz and need some further help?  Schedule a call with us and we’ll get you started down the right path for your journey.   

No matter where you are in your marketing efforts, it’s never too late to go back and assess your current program. And the more you understand about your competitors, the better you will understand what it is that makes your business stand out to the world.

Tomato Fish Is An Indianapolis Consulting Company Focused On Helping Small And Midsize Businesses Make Good Strategic Planning Decisions.