L&M: Where to Play

This is the fourth post in this series on Lafley & Martin’s important book on business strategy “Playing to Win”.

We have already addressed the single most important question that defines team culture: do you play to win or not? If you are just playing to play, then you should not expect to win. But making that choice is just the first in a series of iterative decisions. The next one is to narrow down the field of options for where you will play.

You might keep this mantra in mind — you cannot be all things to all people. You can win the competition for loyalty in a market niche  that is well chosen. What types of market niches?  They include

  • Geographic areas- what countries, regions or cities will you find your clients?
  • Product type – What kinds of products and services do your customers want that you will provide?
  • Consumer segment – How do you define this customer niche? What do these people have in common that will bind them to you?
  • Distribution channel – How will you reach your clients?
  • Vertical stage of production – At what point in the chain of production will you focus=

Think of the small farmer. Will he sell only locally? What will he grow? Will he sell upscale or low price? How ill he get his produce to market? How much will he process his yields?

Each situation is different, but there is always one similarity – choosing where to play is about choosing where NOT to play. Giving up areas that don’t fit.

You should resist three temptations (1) failing to choose. it is easy to presume that your product and service will please all. (2) buy your way into a niche. This rarely works. If you can’t strategically position your own product, you probably will not do well at positioning  choices made by someone else (3) accepting the status quo as fixed . there are always choices to be made. The key to seeing the available choices may be just to believe that they exist.

Making intelligent choices about where to play is all about getting closer to your individual — customized — target group. The closer you get, the more you can learn about them. Get very close!

next up, the second area where we apply our strategic thinking to win — – how to win! Stay tuned!


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