List and discuss the three competitive strategies, according to Michael Porter. Include specific examples of companies that pursue each of the three competitive strategies.
a. Cost leadership strategy—when an organization sets out to be the lowest-cost producer in its industry, it’s following a cost leadership strategy. A low-cost leader aggressively searches out efficiencies in production, marketing, and other areas of operation. Overhead is kept to a minimum, and the firm does everything it can to cut costs. For example, at Wal-Mart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, office furnishings are sparse and drab, but functional. Although low-cost leaders don’t place a lot of emphasis on “frills,” the product or service being sold must be perceived as comparable in quality to that offered by rivals or at least be acceptable to buyers. Examples of companies that have used the low-cost leader strategy include Wal-Mart, Hyundai, and Southwest Airlines.
b. Differentiation strategy—the company that seeks to offer unique products, which are widely valued by customers is following a differentiation strategy. Sources of differentiation might be exceptionally high quality, extraordinary service, innovative design, technological capability, or an unusually positive brand image. The key to this competitive strategy is that whatever product or service attribute is chosen for differentiation must set the firm apart from its competitors and be significant enough to justify a price premium that exceeds the cost of differentiation. Practically any successful product or service can be identified as an example of the differentiation strategy: Nordstrom (customer service), Sony (reputation for quality and innovative design), Coach handbags (design and brand image), and Kimberly-Clark’s Huggies Pull-Ups (product design)
c. Focus strategy—the aim of the focus strategy is at a cost advantage or a differentiation advantage in a narrow segment. That is, managers select a market segment or group of segments in an industry and don’t attempt to serve the broad market. The goal of a focus strategy is to exploit a narrow segment of a market. These segments can be based on product variety, type of end buyer, distribution channel, or geographical location of buyers. Research suggests that the focus strategy may be the most effective choice for small businesses because they typically do not have the economies of scale or internal resources to successfully pursue one of the other two strategies.
Source: Management, 11e (Robbins/Coulter)