You are currently viewing Creating and Executing a Competitive Positioning Strategy (Part 2)

Creating and Executing a Competitive Positioning Strategy (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this two-part blog, we introduced the initial set of activities needed to begin the process of creating and executing a competitive positioning strategy. During the first phase – Analysis and Planning – key tasks include an assessment of the competitive environment and designing a competitive positioning strategy.  Initiatives can include a customer needs assessment (gap analysis) and utilization of other market research tools.

Upon completion of the analysis and planning phase, next steps include the following:

  • Step 2 – Alignment & Implementation/Execution
    • Organizational Alignment
    • Implementation and Execution of Strategy
  • Step 3 – Measure Success and Review Competitive Environment
    • Measure Results
    • Re-Assess Competition
  • Repeat Process Based on Results of Step 3

Align the Organization and Implement

Developing a compelling competitive positioning strategy is often considered the easy part of the process, as the market research and analysis usually reveal a clear roadmap for developing a solid competitive positioning strategy.  The most challenging part of the process is executing the strategy. 

The most common mistake companies make in executing a strategy is assuming that by communicating that strategy throughout the organization and developing departmental goals and objectives that support the strategy, results will follow.  Unfortunately, that is a rare occurrence.  

To ensure successful execution, companies must align the entire organization around the strategy.  Alignment is far deeper than communication and the setting of departmental goals.  True alignment drives company culture, which is the foundation for strategic success.  Step 2 is diagrammed in Figure 1.

Figure 1

Competitive Positioning Strategy Process Step 2 – Align & Implement 

Align & Implement

In assessing and developing organizational alignment all aspects of the business’s processes, reporting structure, performance metrics, compensation, training, communications, and recognition must be reassessed and designed to align with the strategy.  For example, if the competitive positioning strategy is to deliver unparalleled service, all functional areas must define the elements of unparalleled service in their control, create metrics to track performance against goals, empower employees to exercise their judgment in delighting customers, and recognize and reward this behavior.

As important as ensuring organizational alignment is addressing organizational misalignments, areas where what is driven and promoted may conflict with the stated strategy.  These misalignments can quickly derail the success of implementation.  As an example, early in my career I was working for a large manufacturer that stated quality and service were their overriding value.  One day I was sent to a plant to investigate an incident where a whole truckload of bad product was shipped out to a customer.  After a day of interviewing managers, machine operators and quality control personnel, the machine operator finally made the following confession… “I knew the product was bad when I shipped it, but I figured if I didn’t ship the product there would be 100% chance I didn’t make my production quota, but if I did ship the product there would only be a 10% chance that they would be sent back”.  This is a classic case of mis-alignment – the push for productivity caused a supervisor to make a logical decision that undermined the strategic quality initiative.  These areas of potential conflict need to be discovered and addressed to ensure that employees feel empowered to make the proper decision in support of the overall competitive positioning strategy.

Measure Performance Against Competition and Revise Strategy

 Step 3 involves assessing the company’s performance relative to the goals and targets put in place in Phase 1 of the process, updating the external customer research, and revisiting and updating the competitive positioning strategy as necessary.

Monitoring the success of implementation can be done on an ongoing basis by reviewing performance against the metrics put in place during Step 2 of the process.  Most companies review overall performance against these goals on a monthly or quarterly basis.  This is where supportive rewards and recognition programs tied to performance can serve to reinforce the importance of meeting the critical success metrics and reinforce organizational commitment.

More traditional Voice of Customer (VoC) research is also an important element in measuring success, as the customer is the ultimate judge of the success of implementation.  If the customer is not experiencing and seeing the results of your competitive positioning strategy, then it is time to reassess the overall approach, identify the issues, and fix them.  The ongoing nature of this effort creates a circular process that continuously mines the customer and competitive data, defines and updates the competitive positioning strategy, assesses performance, and repeats (Figure 2). 

Figure 2

Competitive Positioning Strategy Process (Step 3)

Measure, Assess, And Improve

Competitive Position

By implementing this circular process, and continuously improving the development and implementation of the strategy, your organization will become champions at implementing and delivering on your competitive positioning strategy.