“What’s the number one reason I should do business with you rather than your competitors?” If prospects ask this question, do you have a good answer? Many of the CEOs I work with think they do, but they’re often wrong.

Would you answer good customer service, quality, reputation or a knowledgeable staff? If so, you’re not alone – but here’s the problem: Those qualities aren’t differentiators. They’re platitudes, and they don’t give you a true competitive edge. Without that edge you give customers little reason to do business with you other than price. And competing on price alone is a very dangerous proposition. It not only squeezes your margins and profits, but it also creates little to no long-term loyalty. All it takes to significantly disrupt your business is a new competitor who enters the marketplace and undercuts your prices. Before you know it, your customers have flocked elsewhere in droves.

To create a real competitive advantage – one that withstands even price pressures – take a hard look at your messaging. If you’re communicating a vague and imprecise competitive advantage, you need to move to one that’s solid, meaningful and relevant to your customers.

Take a look at your website. Is it instantly evident that you are the obvious choice to do business with? If not, you need to make those advantages so obvious that prospects and customers quickly draw the conclusion: “I would have to be an absolute fool to do business with anyone else but you.”

With that in mind, start by uncovering your company’s unique advantage in the marketplace. To tease this out, gather your executive team, top salespeople, marketing specialists and anyone else in your company who has significant contact with customers. Consider the following three questions:

1) What’s common?
What do you have that your competition has, too?

2) What’s better?
Of those things that you share, where does your company excel?

3) What’s unique?
What do you have that no other company has?

Keep in mind that all of your answers need to be both compelling and relevant to your customers. For example, if you’re more efficient at manufacturing your product, your customer doesn’t necessarily care about that – until it means their orders get processed 24 hours faster than your competition.

By understanding what’s common between you and your competition, you’ll begin to commoditize them and reduce their value versus yours. Then, by moving what’s better and what’s unique forward in your messaging, you’ll significantly widen the gap between you and your competition. You’ll also increase your value in the eyes of customers by helping them identify and quantify what you bring to the table.