The Five Key Competitive Strategies

A few weeks back, I encouraged you to assess your company’s competitive position and find out whether you’re positioned for success or if your competitive position is in dire need of improvement.  If your position happens to need some help, read on . . .5KeyCompetitiveStrategies

Your competitive strategy consists of the approaches and initiatives you take to attract customers, withstand competitive pressures, and strengthen your market position.  According to Arthur Thompson and A.J. Strickland in Strategic Management: Concepts and Cases, there are five competitive strategies you should consider:

  • A low-cost leader strategy: striving to be the overall low-cost provider of a product or service that appeals to a broad range of customers (a couple of examples are Sam’s Club and Southwest Airlines).
  • A broad differentiation strategy: seeking to differentiate the company’s product offerings from rivals’ in ways that will appeal to a broad range of buyers [a couple examples are Nordstrom (known for customer service policies and personnel) and Whole Foods (emphasis on health foods and organic groceries)].
  • A best-cost provider strategy: giving customers more value for the money by emphasizing both low cost and upscale difference, the goal being to keep costs and prices lower than those of other providers of comparable quality and features (a couple of examples are the Honda and Toyota car companies with customer satisfaction ratings that rival those of much more expensive cars).
  • A focused, or market-niche, strategy based on lower cost: concentrating on a narrow buyer segment and outcompeting rivals on the basis of lower cost (The Gap is a good example).
  • A focused, or market-niche, strategy based on differentiation: offering niche members a product or service customized to their tastes and requirements [examples are Rolls-Royce (sells limited number of high-end, custom-built cars) and men’s big and tall shops (sell mainstream styles to a limited market with specific requirements)].

So, which one of these strategies is best for your business?

What Is Your Company’s Competitive Position?

To find out how you stack up against your competition, take a little time to analyze your competitive status. This exercise will help you understand and emphasize your unique selling position.  How do you differ, and how can you position yourself for the best competitive advantage?

There’s no single formula for conducting a competitive analysis; it’s mostly just good business sense.  Try to stay aware of what your competition is doing and how your business stacks up against it.  For example:

  • Are your prices and costs competitive? — Do customers who compare costs come back to you?
  • Do you compete effectively in terms of product or service quality?
  • Are you seen as the vendor of choice? — Why do people seek you out?
  • Are you growing, losing ground or just holding onto your market share? — Are you waiting to see what will happen and hoping to react in time?

Staying competitive also implies being aware of trends and reacting to changes faster than your competitors. How will changes in technology and society affect the competition? Are your products or services more advanced than those of your competition? Do your competitors have the jump on you with online marketing/social media?

Understanding the driving forces in your industry — growth rates, shifts in buyer demographics, product and marketing innovations, the entry or exit of other competitors, changes in cost or efficiency and so forth — will make you a top competitor.

I highly encourage you to take some time this week to sit down and ask yourself the questions listed above. Once you’ve done this, come back and leave a comment explaining what you learned about your company’s competitive position.

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