Perspectives: Products and Services

Attention K-Mart Copiers
To match experienced price competitors, management must be realistic about what a low cost and low price strategy really entails.

The Choice of New Products
Companies add new products whether or not a market is hostile. But the choice of which products are most advantageous to add varies with the market situation.

Commodities and Hostile Markets
Conventional wisdom tells us that a commodity market is one in which the products are virtually indistinguishable and the buying decisions are based on price. Conventional wisdom is wrong.

Convenience: Much Tougher Than it Looks
Convenience is best described as short order time. It is the time between the customer’s discovery that he has a need and the meeting of that need. Convenience is a very important aspect in customer decisions – more important than price.

Customer Segmentation: Finding the Human Dimension
Many people talk about segmenting customers by needs, but few write about it. We have examined several thousand product innovations to determine the implied needs that the products met for customers. We have found three categories of human needs: intellectual, physical and emotional. Our work has led us to look for customer needs in any market by asking a series of fifteen questions derived from these three categories of need.

The Danger of Competing on Features
While feature benefits may be the customers first consideration, function leadership may not be the best investment choice for a supplier.

Hallmarks of Hostility
Companies whose industries are in hostility will have to confront several symptoms of this hostility that show themselves in the channels of distribution.

Hostility in a Differentiated Market
A bottle of wine is surely a differentiated product. Nevertheless, the table wine industry underwent the same economic traumas faced by more traditional industries.

How Customers Buy
Customers are often faced with a large number of possible suppliers. How does the customer screen these suppliers to find the one best choice for his need?

Managing Before and After Hostility Starts
Low levels of profitability for most competitors make a hostile industry a tough place to compete.

Overcapacity: Threat or Opportunity?
Overcapacity is a problem that occurs in service, as well as manufacturing industries. When it strikes, the problem affects most functions in a company, and astute managements in a wide range of industries have found common formulas to outperform competition in markets with overcapacity.

Patterns of Product and Service Innovation
From an analyses of several thousand product innovations, we believe that all innovations fall into one of three categories of help for the customer: Provide information; reduce resources the customer uses with the product; or improve the experience the customer has with the product. We have found that eleven questions can help any product innovator be both comprehensive and creative in developing improvements to a product or service.

Rare Mettle: Gold and Silver Strategies to Succeed in Hostile Markets
Managements of winning companies have common themes for success in hostile markets. They each follow five basic themes. While virtually all successful companies are aware of these themes, their implementation differs according to their market position at the onset of hostility.

Reliability: The Hard Road to Sustainable Advantage
Most hostile markets have a large segment where competitors are few and the rewards are great for those who make the effort to get established. This segment is the “reliability” segment.

The Rust Belt Revival
The revival of the U.S. Rust Belt in the late 1980’s holds lessons for companies who would prosper in hostile marketplaces.

Sandlots and Super Bowls
A market that is not hostile is something like a sandlot game in sports.

Staying Alive in a Hostile Marketplace
A few companies survive and even prosper during periods of hostility. How do these companies avoid being the victims of tough market conditions?

Success Under Fire: Policies to Prosper in Hostile Times
A hostile market evolves through six predictable phases. Most companies fail, withdraw or become acquisitions before this evolution is complete. They fail because their management policies were not effective. The few who survive and prosper do so by making decisions that follow two rules: attract customers and discourage competition. Losers lose by not following the second rule.

The Tallest Dwarf
A suppliers’ goal is to take advantage of any market volatility, to take share wherever possible. Doing that requires understanding of what customers need. What are buyers buying?

Turmoil Below: Confronting Low-End Competition
There are four major types of competitor who offer your customers low prices. Each of them have distinct weaknesses. Your response to them depends on your answer to several tests that you would apply to your market and your competition.

Use Subtle Strategy in Tough Markets
A hostile market operates differently than a market with “normal” competitive conditions. But as difficult as a tough market can be, it can also present an astute management team with an unusual opportunity.

When Product Mix Matters
There are several price point specialists. Some are better positioned than others for long term success in a hostile marketplace.

When to Compete on Features
Often function leadership is not worth the investment. Yet there are markets and conditions that make feature innovation worthwhile.

Why Do Leaders Lead?
There are four potential kinds of leaders in the marketplace. In order to be successful, each must follow its own particular rules.

Return to Perspectives Home Page