One of the Most Strategic Questions

By Lorna Shepard

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One of the most strategic questions an organization can ask during the strategic planning process is often, “Where are we going to play?” How this question is answered is the foundation for an organization’s competitive positioning within their marketplace.

Recently, OnStrategy worked with senior leadership of a health and fitness organization to answer this very question. A core exercise of competitive positioning requires identifying the underlying value drivers your customers perceive as important in making a decision to either buy or walk away from the product or service your organization offers. In determining your competitive positioning, or where you’ll play, it’s essential that the value drivers reflect what’s important to the customers within the market segment your organization competes. 

Our client identified six value drivers specific to the health and fitness market in which they serve and compete. The organization’s leadership agreed their current strengths only featured one of the six value drivers. Would this be enough to drive future growth? The answer was no. So the team identified two additional value drivers that the organization had a unique opportunity to significantly improve upon. These were to be the organization’s future value drivers and a meaningful focus for their strategic plan near-term.

With the future value drivers identified, OnStrategy and our client’s leadership built a strategic plan with goals and measurable performance indicators to ensure the strategic shift within the organization was achieved so that their competitive positioning will be unique and something the organization can consistently promise and deliver on.

Where Are We Going To Play? Competitive Positioning Evaluation Process:

  1. Identify competing companies and their strengths, weaknesses and competitive advantages;
  2. Rank your company against the competitors’ competitive advantages identified in step #1, including your own strengths;
  3. On a matrix, determine the X and Y axes based on step #2 and known (data-informed) customer value-drivers, then plot your top 5-10 competitors on those axes, then plot your organization’s current position on the matrix and the future, desired position on the matrix. (see example below)
  4. Fill the gap: discuss and identify what it will take to get from your current position on the matrix to the future position: operational changes, new or refined products or services, etc. These inform cross-functional goals and annual initiatives in your strategic plan.



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