The problem is that we no longer do business in a bubble. Therefore, your competitive advantage can be enjoyed only for a short period of time. Modern business strategy must be a continuous process evolving with new competitive advantages. One must build their business on the basis of moving from one competitive advantage to another as smoothly as possible. This is a continuous process and one that is critically important to long-term success.
In general, you can only depend on new innovations giving you an edge for a year or two. For example, lower cost of base elements and new configurations can last a short period of time, sometimes as little as one-quarter of a year. These are tangibles that will impact your current edge. There are intangibles that must be paid attention to as well including how you are perceived by your customer base. This includes issues like how satisfied your customers are, how strong your brand is nationally and in some cases, internationally, how strong your distribution channels are and whether they can be expanded. The best part of the intangibles is they are far more challenging for your competition to duplicate without a significant investment in time, energy and in some cases, money.
In short: your overall business strategy and the competitive advantages you develop and nurture have to be more dynamic than ever. You have to identify a business strategy that works for you, analyze your competition’s responses to your advances and work out your next steps. Stop and think about it like an eagle on a migration route: The eagle already knows where he is going and how he is going to get there. However, his decisions remain dynamic, responding to altitude, air currents and stops. There may be other factors that come into play including the weather and his need for food and shelter. Simply put: The eagle is always on the lookout for a new competitive advantage and he has developed a dynamic strategy to ensure he reaches his destination regardless of the circumstances he is facing. Without this type of dynamic strategy, the eagle would quickly exhaust himself; he must always be ready to adapt to changing conditions along his route.
While this may seem like an oversimplification of the problem, business strategies must have a competitive advantage roadmap. This means determining early on how long we will have a competitive edge once we have a new innovation and being able to jump to the next area that will provide us that competitive advantage once again.
One of the biggest obstacles that a company has with maintaining a competitive edge is internal issues. One has to be poised to extract maximum value from each advantage and have the flexibility to adapt to new advantages nearly immediately. For most companies, this means having a continuous process of innovation and research and development.
Competition within the industry is not always the main competitive threat; in fact, there are far more significant threats that most businesses face like new business models, new technologies or new companies. You might be surprised to find out that the least of your problems is current competitors; there may be others waiting in the wings to pounce at an opportunity. These “nonobvious players” may be a more significant threat than your current competition.
This means you have to be constantly looking out for ways to keep your brand in a competitive model and be prepared to address changes nearly immediately. This is why businesses are now dealing with what we identify as “transitory competitive advantages”. If your strategy for staying on top is not flexible and easily maintained through a dynamic strategy, you will lose any competitive advantage you have quickly and may not have an opportunity to regain your position.