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Let’s face it, if you’re trying to survive in business, you can’t remain static. As Mark Twain once said, “You can be on the right track, but you’ll still get run over if you don’t keep moving.” So, there’s a constant need to not only be better than your competitors, but to constantly better yourself as well.



Of course, the real goal is not to merely create a momentary competitive advantage, but rather, to create a sustainable competitive advantage. As the National Association of Home Builders Research Center noted in their paper, Sustaining A Competitive Advantage, “today’s advantage only buys time to create the next one.” So, the game of business success becomes a journey along a path of ongoing business improvement.

DEFINING THE TARGET

The two most critical categories of business improvement are: (1) those that touch the customer and drive customer loyalty and, therefore, impact revenue and (2) those that reduce costs and, thereby, improve profits. Not only are these two the most important of the many areas for business improvement, they are also inextricably interdependent.

For instance, fail to maintain customer loyalty and you will put revenue at risk (unless, of course, you’ve found some magical way of securing new customers faster than you lose existing ones). Fail to keep revenues from shrinking and you set the stage for your business to wither and die.

Similarly, if you fail to maintain profitability, then you most certainly doom your business to eventual extinction (unless we all somehow develop collective amnesia and miraculously return to the outlandish days of the Internet boom when lack of profitability was celebrated with inexplicably inflated market valuations). But, barring that, we have to find ways to keep our customers and grow profitably.

But, the game of business is not just about getting better at what you do. That’s important, to be sure, but it’s not where the real game for competitive dominance is played and won. It’s about creating competitively differentiating worth for the customer. And, if your customer has a customer whom they’re trying to delight, then the game is also about helping your customer create competitively differentiating worth for their customer.

With all of this in mind, I want to explore several examples of ways in which retailers are working to take their businesses to the next level by driving competitively differentiating worth to their customers and how manufacturers are helping their retailer customers to succeed with those competitive efforts.

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