B2B Marketing Blog

Written by The Mezzanine Group
on November 09, 2011

One of the most useful things I learned in MBA school – something that I still use almost weekly now, a full ten years since graduating (and there are precious few things I can say that about) – is called the ‘3 C model’. It’s a framework for defining strategy. And like most brilliant things, it’s so good because it’s so simple.

For many businesses, especially smaller companies, ‘strategy’ is a luxury. They are too busy keeping customers happy right now and keeping payroll paid this week to enjoy contemplating a high-falutin’ strategy.

But no matter the company size, the 3C framework is an excellent tool for defining strategy. Even if your company is at a point where strategy feels like a luxury, the 3 C model will help you think about strategy – for that day when it becomes not just a reality but a necessity for your business.

The 3 Cs in the model are Company, Customer and Competitor. At the intersection of these 3 things is good strategy.

The idea is that at the intersection of a company’s strengths, a customer group’s needs and the competitors’ offerings lies the opportunity. If your company is really 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 other companies out there 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 far more complicated and sophisticated strategy models out there, but this one cuts to the chase. For the work I do helping mid-sized B2B companies articulate and implement marketing plans, this model works very well.

Here’s how to put it to use:

Company – this is the internal analysis section. 3 key questions to answer:

  1. What are our competencies (what are we really good at?)
  2. What are our aspirations (what do we want to do?)
  3. What resources do we have?

The next two sections are external analysis. Companies can do a workshop among management, sales and customer service to get the answers to these – and it’s almost always helpful to get independent research among customers and on customers (although almost every company I know thinks they already know all the answers). They do tend to know a lot, but not everything.


  1. Who are the customers in the market? (on a segment basis – might be by vertical, function, geography, company size or other parameter)
  2. What are the needs of the various customers? (again, this is on a segment basis)
  3. How do they buy? (segment)
  4. How much do they buy? (ultimately, your market has to be big enough to support your company in achieving its growth goals)


  1. What are competitors offering (and not offering) that your customers need?
  2. What can competitors not easily offer that you might offer?
  3. How do competitors go to market (sell, service, market) that does not connect well with customers?

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 head for Autumn and business planning season for many companies, try using this model to think about your strategy. And let me know if it works for you!

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