One of the most useful things I learned in MBA school — something that I still use almost weekly now — is called the '3 C model'. It's a framework for defining strategy. And like most brilliant things, its incredibly simple. For many businesses, ‘strategy' can seem like a lofty or impractical focus. They are too busy keeping customers happy right now and keeping payroll paid this week to enjoy contemplating a strategy. But a solid strategy is the basis for all successful businesses. And the 3C framework is a great and easy way to define your strategy.
The 3 ‘C’s in the model are Company, Customer and Competitor. And at the intersection of these 3 components is good strategy:
The idea is that at the intersection of a company's strengths, the needs of a customer group and the offerings of competitors lies the opportunity. If your company is fantastic at building custom software for insurance brokers and there is a large group of insurance brokers out there who need software to help them be more successful, and there are no competitors building software for insurance brokers, then wow, you have your strategy. Of course real life is a bit more complicated than that — but the framework works, you usually just add more detail.
There are many more complicated and sophisticated strategy models available, but this one cuts to the chase.For most of the small and mid-sized companies I’ve worked with over the last decade, this model works very well. Here's how to put it to use:
Company — 3 key questions to answer: 1. What are our strengths (what are we really good at?) 2. What are our aspirations (what do we want to do?) 3. What resources do we have?
Customers — 1. Who are the customers in the market? (on a segment basis — might be by industry, function, geography, company size or other parameter) 2. What are the needs of the various customers? (again, do this on a segment basis) 3. How do they buy? 4. How much do they buy? (your market has to be big enough to support your company in achieving its growth goals)
Competitors —1. What are competitors offering (and not offering) that customers need? 2. What can competitors not easily offer that you might offer? 3. How do competitors go to market (sell, service, market)?
Out of the 3 C model, your marketing strategy becomes apparent. You'll be able to define:
- What you offer
- How you offer it
- What your unique value proposition and market positioning is
- Your message that will connect with your target market
As we work our way through the first few months of a new year, try using this model to think about your strategy. And let me know how it works for your company.