Porter’s Generic Strategies In A Nutshell

In his book, “Competitive Advantage,” in 1985, Porter conceptualized the concept of competitive advantage, by looking at two key aspects. Industry attractiveness, and the company’s strategic positioning. The latter, according to Porter, can be achieved either via cost leadership, differentiation, or focus.

Quick intro do generic strategies

As Porter was trying to conceptualize and break down what determined a competitive advantage for companies, within specific industries, Porter created a framework that would stick for decades.

This framework moved along two core sub-frameworks.

One to determine industry attractiveness (Porter’s five forces).

And another one, that also based on the industry attractiveness, determined the strategic positioning (Porter’s generic strategies to gain a competitive advantage).

As he explained in the book, “competition is at the core of the success or failure of firms.”

The whole point for Porter was, through competitive strategy“to establish a profitable and sustainable position against the forces that determine industry competition.”

Industry attractiveness could be analyzed through five core forces:

Porter’s Five Forces is a model that helps organizations to gain a better understanding of their industries and competition. Published for the first time by Professor Michael Porter in his book “Competitive Strategy” in the 1980s. The model breaks down industries and markets by analyzing them through five forces

Once a company had clear in mind the context and industry, it needed to make a strategic choice, that for Porter was summarized in three core moves.

Be a cost leader, differentiator, focuser or die..


Within cost leadership, a company that for several factors (spanning from economies of scale to operational efficiency) managed to sell a product at a lower price and still make good profit margins, would sustain its long-term competitive advantage, is in a good strategic position.

On the other side, based on a different context a company could still reach a competitive advantage in a broad market through differentiation.


A third generic strategy, that targeted a narrow scope within an industry could also be reached through cost focus or differentiation focus.


There is one scenario, that Porter emphasized to avoid: stuck in the middle.

Getting stuck in the middle


In all the cases in which a company wouldn’t be able to execute one of the generic strategies highlighted by Porter in competitive advantage, this would result in a stuck in the middle scenario, where no competitive advantage is created.

Other strategic frameworks by Porter

Porter’s Diamond Model

Porter’s Diamond Model is a diamond-shaped framework that explains why specific industries in a nation become internationally competitive while those in other nations do not. The model was first published in Michael Porter’s 1990 book The Competitive Advantage of Nations. This framework looks at the firm strategy, structure/rivalry, factor conditions, demand conditions, related and supporting industries.

Porter’s Four Corners Analysis

Developed by American academic Michael Porter, the Four Corners Analysis helps a business understand its particular competitive landscape. The analysis is a form of competitive intelligence where a business determines its future strategy by assessing its competitors’ strategy, looking at four elements: drivers, current strategy, management assumptions, and capabilities.

Porter’s Value Chain Model

In his 1985 book Competitive Advantage, Porter explains that a value chain is a collection of processes that a company performs to create value for its consumers. As a result, he asserts that value chain analysis is directly linked to competitive advantage. Porter’s Value Chain Model is a strategic management tool developed by Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter. The tool analyses a company’s value chain – defined as the combination of processes that the company uses to make money.

Other business strategy frameworks

In the 1970s, Bruce D. Henderson, founder of the Boston Consulting Group, came up with The Product Portfolio (aka BCG Matrix, or Growth-share Matrix), which would look at a successful business product portfolio based on potential growth and market shares. It divided products into four main categories: cash cows, pets (dogs), question marks, and stars.
Product development, known as new product development process comprises a set of steps that go from idea generation to post launch review, which help companies analyze the various aspects of launching new products and bringing them to market. It comprises idea generation, screening, testing; business case analysis, product development, test marketing, commercialization and post launch review.
A gap analysis helps an organization assess its alignment with strategic objectives to determine whether the current execution is in line with the company’s mission and long-term vision. Gap analyses then help reach a target performance by assisting organizations to use their resources better. A good gap analysis is a powerful tool to improve execution.
In the FourWeekMBA growth matrix, you can apply growth for existing customers by tackling the same problems (gain mode). Or by tackling existing problems, for new customers (expand mode). Or by tackling new problems for existing customers (extend mode). Or perhaps by tackling whole new problems for new customers (reinvent mode).
A go-to-market strategy represents how companies market their new products to reach target customers in a scalable and repeatable way. It starts with how new products/services get developed to how these organizations target potential customers (via sales and marketing models) to enable their value proposition to be delivered to create a competitive advantage.
A SWOT Analysis is a framework used for evaluating the business’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It can aid in identifying the problematic areas of your business so that you can maximize your opportunities. It will also alert you to the challenges your organization might face in the future.
A profitability framework helps you assess the profitability of any company within a few minutes. It starts by looking at two simple variables (revenues and costs) and it drills down from there. This helps us identify in which part of the organization there is a profitability issue and strategize from there.

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