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Striking a Balance & The Duality of Business Strategy

duality of business strategy

In the practical mechanics of growing or scaling a business, there exists a perpetual debate on the

most effective approach to building a successful venture. One school of thought, championed by

acclaimed professors in MBA programs, advocates for a streamlined approach: one product, one

message, one channel, and one target audience. This strategy hinges on the principle of simplicity

and focus. Proponents argue that by concentrating efforts on a singular product, conveying a clear

message, utilising a specific channel, and targeting a distinct audience, businesses can streamline

their operations, enhance brand identity, and foster customer loyalty.

On the flip side, another school of thought, also supported by reputable business scholars,

champions continuous innovation and diversification. According to this perspective, the business

landscape is dynamic, requiring companies to adapt and evolve constantly. Scholars like the late

Professor Clayton Christensen, renowned for his disruptive innovation theory, emphasise the

importance of not only refining existing products but also innovating and creating new ones. This

approach acknowledges that consumer preferences change, technologies advance, and markets

shift, necessitating a proactive stance towards product development.

Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter, a respected authority on competitive strategy,

supports the idea of focus and differentiation. He argues that to gain a competitive advantage,

businesses should choose to be either cost leaders, offering products at lower prices, or

differentiators, providing unique products or services. This perspective aligns with the one-product,

one-message, one-channel, and one-target-audience approach.

However, professors like Rita McGrath from Columbia Business School present a contrasting

viewpoint. She advocates for a more fluid strategy, emphasising the importance of continuously

exploring new opportunities and being ready to pivot when necessary. In her book "The End of

Competitive Advantage" McGrath challenges the traditional notion of sustainable competitive

advantage, urging businesses to focus on agility and adaptability.

Examples From Startups to Billion-Dollar Enterprises

Companies like Dropbox from their start-up phase exemplify the streamlined approach. Dropbox,

with its singular focus on cloud storage solutions, clear messaging, and targeted marketing,

successfully gained a devoted user base. Conversely, technology giants like Apple embody the

dynamic strategy, perpetually innovating their product lines, introducing new devices, and

diversifying their services to adapt to evolving consumer demands.

In the mid-range revenue segments, companies such as Patagonia epitomise focus and

differentiation. Patagonia's dedication to sustainable products and its clear messaging on

environmental responsibility have created a distinctive brand identity, attracting environmentally

conscious consumers. In contrast, Amazon epitomises continuous innovation, expanding their

product offerings, venturing into new markets, and pioneering innovations such as Amazon Web

Services (AWS) to maintain their competitive edge.

At the higher echelons of the business world, multinational corporations like Procter & Gamble

maintains a portfolio of diverse products under different brands, with their focus on continuous

development and acquisition of new brands, in the pursuit of sustainable growth.

US YouTuber sensation, Marie Forleo created a digital empire that includes Marie TV, B-School,

Books and a Copy Writing Program, when asked what she wished she did differently, her answer was

having the courage to continually improve and develop new products.

For both new startups and established businesses, the continuous improvement of products is not

just a strategy but a necessity. It is a fundamental aspect of staying competitive, meeting ever-

changing customer demands, and ensuring long-term sustainability. Innovations in technology, shifts

in consumer preferences, and emerging market trends demand that businesses adapt and refine

their offerings. By consistently enhancing products, companies can not only attract new customers

but also retain existing ones, building brand loyalty and trust. Moreover, the process of striving for

better products fosters an internal culture of creativity and solutions finding. Embracing a mindset of

constant improvement not only fuels growth but also strengthens a company's resilience in the face

of challenges, ensuring its relevance and success.

The debate between a focused, singular approach and a dynamic, innovative strategy remains a

cornerstone of business theory. The choice between one product, one message, one channel, and

one target audience, and continuous product improvement and diversification ultimately depends

on the nature of the business, its industry, and the savviness and preferences of its leaders.

Successful entrepreneurs and business leaders are extremely focused on their approach, that they

have the right team and that they are continually adapting their strategies to the ever-changing

demands of the market, ensuring both stability and innovation coexist in their ventures.

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