Merge's Blog

Could your weakness be your competitive advantage?

Why is it that doctors always seem to keep you waiting? No don’t answer, it’s a rhetorical question. But I think many of you will agree that this is a common frustration about visiting the doctor – he or she is “running late”. I was waiting at my doctor’s office a few days ago and I noticed a new sign just behind the receptionist’s desk:

I was impressed with their approach. Clearly, “running late” is a common occurrence in this office, but the staff here have found a way to turn this negative feature into something positive. It reminded me of something I read several years ago called “Feature the Flaw”. Blogger Scott Anthony explained how the eco-tourism hotel industry has turned a set of flaws — basic rooms with no air conditioning, no TV and no room service, but a plentiful supply of mosquitoes — into features that can command price premiums. They positioned something negative as a benefit. Clearly this doctor’s office has taken a similar tactic.

So what can you do to apply this principle in your workplace? You no doubt have flaws in your products and services; is there a way to position these flaws differently so that your stakeholders will see them as positive features? If your clients or employees tell you that there is a potential failing in one of your ideas, can you spin the problem around by looking for an external client or internal customer who would consider that very failing a feature? By changing your point of view (and helping others see it), you could very well turn a weakness into a competitive advantage.

Do you have any examples of how companies have turned flaws into features?  Do share!


  • Reminds me of the small, neighbourhood hair salon who had a large, discount hair cut business move in right across the street. In their window, the discount shop had a large sign reading “we give $10.00 haircuts”.

    The salon lost many his clients and was faced with losing his business. Sitting outside his empty shop one day, he watched his old clients coming out of the discount shop, and then inspiration stuck.

    He quickly rang up his local printer and the next day put a very large sign in his window that read:
    “we FIX $10.00 haircuts”.

  • At my RV Park in Texas we have a 3/4 miles gravel entrance road and sufficient but not flashy amenities. We advertise as a “no frills” experience with all the features reminiscent of old fashioned camping including lots of country quiet, wildlife, shade trees but convenient to downtown San Antonio’s attractions. Regarding our road, we make mention as soon as a guest arrives that although it is somewhat inconvenient, it allows us the seclusion from any outside traffic unlike the more amenity rich Parks right in town. We promise a good nights rest and country quiet all day. We are still a no frills park but have found a niche of our own with returning customers on a regular basis.

    • Teri, I think you are yet another perfect example of how to turn what others might perceive to be a weakness into a competitive advantage. You’re absolutely right — there are people who would pay (perhaps a premium) for country-quiet and rest. Bravo!


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