Diagnosis: Understanding your industry structure and it’s competitive forces
Diagnosis: Understanding your industry structure and the competitive forces driving profits
A good place to start your diagnosis is with an overall understanding of your industry and the forces driving prices and therefore profitability. The concepts are taken primarily from Michael Porters’ book, “The Five Competitive Forces That Shape Strategy.” Mr. Porter is a professor at Harvard. The book is years old but the material is still relevant. This information will get you off on a good footing for diagnosing the problem.
Every industry is different but the underlying drivers of profitability are the same in every industry. These five forces will help you:
Asses industry attractiveness
See how trends will affect industry competition
Determine which industries a company should compete in
Visualize how companies can position themselves for success
Anticipate shifts in competition
See how industry structure evolves
Find better strategic positions within the industry
Following is a summary of the five forces that shape strategy.
One. The Bargaining Power of Buyers
How buyers can use their clout to force prices down or demand more services at existing prices. Therefore, capturing more value for themselves. Power is highest when buyers are large compared to competitors, products are undifferentiated and represent a significant cost to buyers, and there are few switching costs.
Two. The Bargaining Power of Suppliers
Powerful suppliers can use their negotiating leverage to charge higher prices or demand more favorable terms which lower industry profitability and switching suppliers can be difficult, expensive or time-consuming.
Three. The Threat Of New Entrants
This threat can keep prices down and cause the company to spend more to retain customers. Entry brings more supply and lower prices. The threat of entry puts a cap on the profit potential of an industry. The threat depends on the barriers to entry, economies of scale, cost of building awareness, government restrictions, etc.
Four. The Threat of Substitute Products or Services
When a new product or service meets the same basic customer need in a different way, industry profitability suffers. However, it depends on the price-performance trade-offs.
Five. Rivalry Among Existing Competitors
If rivalry is intense, it drives down prices or dissipates profits by raising the cost of competing companies. A rivalry tends to be fierce if:
Competitors are numerous or roughly equal in size and market position
Industry growth is slow
There are high fixed costs which are incentives for price-cutting
Exit barriers are high (e.g., high debt load)
Rivals are highly committed to the industry.
This analysis will give you a good foundation to move on to other analyses like the next one on Creating Blue Ocean strategies.