In this article which is based on a marketing analysis of Michael Porter′s definition of competitive strategies, the confusion present in marketing and strategic management texts as to the definitions of the three strategies of low cost, differentiation and focus is noted. The idea that using price to differentiate means a firm is using a low cost strategy is dismissed and the value of a definition of focus strategy as merely some degree of extreme differentiation is questioned. New definitions of the three strategies are proposed which are based upon the idea that firms react to, and take actions which influence, the structure of the market in which they operate. They influence market structure through determining the market′s proximity level ‐the minimum level of marketplace performance which a firm must reach in order to compete across the broad marketplace. If a firm has the ability to reach this level and go further to excel in the provision of one or more benefits, it can implement a differentiation strategy. Alternatively, it can attempt to lift the market′s proximity level or partake in imitative activity, which reduces the potential bases for differentiation in the market, a low cost strategy (only sensible for the firm with the lowest costs of production). If a firm lacks the ability to reach the proximity level, it must seek segments which do not require reaching proximity in order to serve them, a focus strategy.
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