Types of Strategies – Cost Leadership ,Differentiation , Focus
The term ‘Strategy’ has been adapted from war and is being increasingly used in business to reflect broad overall objectives and policies of an enterprise. Literally speaking, the term ‘Strategy’ stands for the war-art of the military general, compelling the enemy to fight as per out chosen terms and conditions.
TYPES OF STRATEGIES
According to Michel Porter, the strategies can be classified into three types. They are
a) Cost leadership strategy
b) Differentiation strategy
c) Focus strategy
The following table illustrates Porter’s generic strategies:
a) Cost Leadership Strategy
This generic strategy calls for being the low cost producer in an industry for a given level of quality. The firm sells its products either at average industry prices to earn a profit higher than that of rivals, or below the average industry prices to gain market share. In the event of a price war, the firm can maintain some profitability while the competition suffers losses. Even without a price war, as the industry matures and prices decline, the firms that can produce more cheaply will remain profitable for a longer period of time. The cost leadership strategy usually targets a broad market.
Some of the ways that firms acquire cost advantages are by improving process efficiencies, gaining unique access to a large source of lower cost materials, making optimal outsourcing and vertical integration decisions, or avoiding some costs altogether. If competing firms are unable to lower their costs by a similar amount, the firm may be able to sustain a competitive advantage based on cost leadership.
Firms that succeed in cost leadership often have the following internal strengths:
• Access to the capital required to make a significant investment in production assets; this investment represents a barrier to entry that many firms may not overcome.
• Skill in designing products for efficient manufacturing, for example, having a small component count to shorten the assembly process.
• High level of expertise in manufacturing process engineering.
• Efficient distribution channels.
Each generic strategy has its risks, including the low-cost strategy. For example, other firms may be able to lower their costs as well. As technology improves, the competition may be able to leapfrog the production capabilities, thus eliminating the competitive advantage. Additionally, several firms following a focus strategy and targeting various narrow markets may be able to achieve an even lower cost within their segments and as a group gain significant market share.
b) Differentiation Strategy
A differentiation strategy calls for the development of a product or service that offers unique attributes that are valued by customers and that customers perceive to be better than or different from the products of the competition. The value added by the uniqueness of the product may allow the firm to charge a premium price for it. The firm hopes that the higher price will more than cover the extra costs incurred in offering the unique product. Because of the product’s unique attributes, if suppliers increase their prices the firm may be able to pass along the costs to its customers who cannot find substitute products easily.
Firms that succeed in a differentiation strategy often have the following internal strengths:
• Access to leading scientific research.
• Highly skilled and creative product development team.
• Strong sales team with the ability to successfully communicate the perceived strengths of the product.
• Corporate reputation for quality and innovation.
The risks associated with a differentiation strategy include imitation by competitors and changes in customer tastes. Additionally, various firms pursuing focus strategies may be able to achieve even greater differentiation in their market segments.
c) Focus Strategy
The focus strategy concentrates on a narrow segment and within that segment attempts to achieve either a cost advantage or differentiation. The premise is that the needs of the group can be better serviced by focusing entirely on it. A firm using a focus strategy often enjoys a high degree of customer loyalty, and this entrenched loyalty discourages other firms from competing directly.
Because of their narrow market focus, firms pursuing a focus strategy have lower volumes and therefore less bargaining power with their suppliers. However, firms pursuing a differentiation focused strategy may be able to pass higher costs on to customers since close substitute
products do not exist.
Firms that succeed in a focus strategy are able to tailor a broad range of product development strengths to a relatively narrow market segment that they know very well.
Some risks of focus strategies include imitation and changes in the target segments. Furthermore, it may be fairly easy for a broad-market cost leader to adapt its product in order to compete directly. Finally, other focusers may be able to carve out sub-segments that they can serve even better.
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