In need a fresh competitive edge? Maybe your competitive edge has one, and you just haven't looked for it hard enough. Take the case of Steve Rondel, president of $1.8-million Advanced Products & Technologies Inc.

Rondel was standing in the mail room of his Redmond, Wash., business when he realized that very few customers were returning the portable coffee makers, hair dryers, and other travel products he makes.

Then the light bulb went on. The reliability of his company's products could be exploited. Why not offer a five-year warranty as a way to differentiate Advanced Products from the pack? Given the low return rate, what could it cost?

Virtually nothing, as it turned out, and the payoff can be enormous, especially if yours is a higher-priced line. The warranty, says Rondel, tells consumers the product is worth it.