The Power of the Network: How to Develop Competitive Advantage in Business

Cameron Switzer
 


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An amazing thing happened today that exemplifies the power of the “global network".

I received a call from UPS Japan. They have to deliver a parcel from America to my Italian associate that lives in Tokyo. The address on the waybill was incorrect and there was no telephone number on the waybill.

UPS wanted to deliver this parcel so they did a search on google inputting my associate's name. What they came up with was my Intrmarket Solutions web site at http://www.intrmarketsolutions.com. They searched through my contact information which was very easily accessible in an extremely simple way and called me. I provided the telephone number of my associate and told them that if they cannot get through (he may be away on business) to call me back and I would provide the most recent mailing address for them to deliver the parcel.

I contacted my associate to confirm that UPS did get through so his parcel is on the way to his office. This is a real-life example of how the internet was used to help someone succeed in their ventures.

This brings up a few very interesting points to consider:

1) COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE: ACCESSIBILITY

All companies need to be accessible in order for clients to find them. This is an obvious fact. Without visibility no company would ever have contact and no transactions would occur. Traditional means have been to have a physical presence with a sign above the door so that people walking by will note your presence. When advertising advanced, we moved to utilizing the media (newspapers, trade magazines, phone books, TV etc. ). Companies go to trade shows for exposure, they put up ads on automobiles and billboards, and more.

These days, research on how people are advertising shows that things are dramatically changing; more and more companies are putting ads on the internet through the search engines. Google and Yahoo have become so successful (and wealthy) not because they offer all that free stuff, but because so many millions of people access them, find ads, click on the ads and go to businesses that are there. This makes revenue for these companies. To have an ad on the internet usually means to have a website or presence on the internet.

A website that is visible, “google-able" (accessible through search engines), simple, professional and well-laid out (with easy access to contact information) is a major asset in this day and age when nearly everyone looks to the net to find people and places.

In the past, even when it was not necessary, “web-heads" often said, “you have to be on the net. " I didn't necessarily completely agree in the past, but now I feel differently. Managers in their 50s and 60s (those that are running “older, established" companies) have finally embraced the necessity of IT to develop competitive advantage in their company so they too look to the internet for information on people, businesses and novel ideas. They also use it to see what the competition is doing and to stay one step ahead of the pack. Of course the younger generation managing businesses are heavily invested in the internet.

I am still trying very hard to get better access to my website; it is an ongoing process, an upward spiral. One always must be constantly innovating, looking for new things to add, new values, new advantages otherwise the competition will level the playing field, or worse, get one up on you. I regularly look at the number of “hits" or accesses to my website through statistics my host offers, tweak the keywords, make more submissions to other important search engines and the like.

There are companies that will do this for you. If you choose to go that route you need to do your due diligence as you would in any business venture before hiring someone to do something for you. There are companies that will do it for free, some that will charge a huge amount, others that will meet your needs and those that will scam you and try to rip you off. If you have the finances to go this way, I highly recommend it for small and medium businesses alike. You wouldn't ask a first-year medical student to perform open-heart surgery, would you? Likewise, would you ask a newspaper delivery person to write your “million dollar" marketing campaign? Use the resources that best suit your needs and the most talented people in the field. Look to the “total running costs", the costs over the entire project, and not just the numbers that follow the dollar sign.

Quite simply, you need to be visible and more importantly, findable. And you need to be found before the prospect finds your rivals. This gives you a competitive advantage, and the only way you can succeed in business is to have a competitive advantage over your rivals.

In the ISO 14001 (environment) world, you continually need to be spiraling up. This means you need to innovate and provide new and unique ways of “helping the environment". Of course decreasing your negative impact is one way (use less gasoline, decrease electricity, eliminate waste, etc. ) but another excellent way is to add to the positive impact of the environment (produce environmentally friendly goods, use environmentally friendly associates, etc. ). Decreasing costs and providing goods cheaper than the competition is one way to be competitive, but think outside the box and try to provide added value, more for your customer, things that the rivals are not willing to do and you have an even more powerful competitive advantage.

2) CLUSTERS: UTILIZING THE NETWORK

How did a Japanese employee of a global transport company find my association to the person he needs to make a delivery to you may be asking. This is the power of the network.

On my website I have testimonials from clients and associates whom I have served. It helps potential prospects who have found me to have a better feel for me, to understand me more and not to feel nervous about putting their business (and hands) in “some guy on the internet" (that may or may not be legitimate).

Developing a sense of reliability, of comfortable association is extremely important. It helps people take the next step. This is even more essential when running a business “long distance" or through the network such as Intrmarket Solutions. We provide assistance to companies that want to do business with Japan through advisory positions, sales assistance, data mining information gathering and a whole lot of other services that ordinary businesses and especially consulting firms do not want to do or cannot do. This is the competitive advantage that we need in order to succeed. And providing the “links" to the real world through testimonials from real companies (with real names, addresses and phone numbers for confirmation) is how we do this.

The UPS employee did a Google search for my associate's name. Because our website was listed in Google, and thanks to the existence of these testimonials which had my associate's name was also listed, the UPS person found my Intrmarket Solutions website, and called me for help! Do you think my associate ever thought that by giving me a testimonial it would, in the future, help someone somewhere in the world have a critical package delivered to him? The network can be a mind-boggling thing. You never know how something you do for someone will be “paid back", but eventually it will. It always happens.

Now, how is that for a unique way to leverage your name on the internet? This is the main reason why I am writing this article; to show you the power of the “network" and of the internet, and of the global market and how we at Intrmarket Solutions capitalize on the resources at hand.

SUMMARY

In summary the following points are vital for success in business (and in life):

1) Develop a competitive advantage to stay ahead of the competition.

2) Understand that price is very important but it is not the only way to develop competitive advantage.

3) Always be aspiring to improve through innovation and education.

4) Look for ways to utilize the network you have developed, the cluster you are associated with.

5) Rely upon your friends, associates, employees, those around you for their knowledge, expertise and assistance whenever you can. And invest in them for they are your most important asset of all.

6) Use the most effective marketing resources at hand and invest in the best that you can afford.

7) Look for long-term success, not short-term gain. Short-term is fleeting, but long-term is long-lasting.

8) I'll say it again: Invest.

If you follow these steps, think how they can apply to your business and try to apply them in a way that makes sense to you, you will be well on the road to developing a competitive advantage that many highly-paid MBAs are trying to instill in companies just like yours around the world today.

Most people running smaller to midsize businesses are ordinary people with little to no formal business training. They are scrambling, just trying to keep up, flying by the “seat of their pants" with no foundation for long-term growth and success. They are your rivals.

Get the jump on your competitors today. Develop a definite competitive advantage.

Cameron Switzer
Intrmarket Solutions
http://www.intrmarketsolutions.com
Japan

Our Mission Statement:
To prosper while exceeding the needs and expectations of clientele and associates in all aspects of cooperation through mutually beneficial Win-Win agreements.

Cameron Switzer has lived and worked in Japan for over 15 years. He is fluent in the language, the culture and business.

For assistance regarding business related to Japan, please visit Cameron's business site, Intrmarket Solutions, at: http://www.intrmarketsolutions.com/ today.

To visit his personal site, please go to http://www.japanippon.com/ where you can learn a lot about life in Japan and have a great time while doing it!

If you would like to study the Free! Japanese Lessons, please visit: http://www.japanippon.com/japanese/classroom.htm today.

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