Strategy Simplified:Competitive advantage in the 2015 Races

chess-2730034_1920By Judith Mugeni

January 12, 2015

Strategy Simplified: How to gain a competitive advantage in the ParkRun and Walking/Running races in 2015

Let us begin 2015 with creating strategies using an analogy close to my heart: running to keep healthy. Many people ask what a strategy is (a plan of action not just a plan) or feel that only certain people are equipped to write strategies, while in some cases it might be true that expertise is required, in other cases any one can think in a strategic manner. Let me illustrate using a running analogy and strategic thinking using a situation analysis, objective setting and a strategic table (taking into consideration the Ws1H, why, what, how, and measurement and of course this is assuming you know who your target audience is and where you expect to find them):

Situation analysis:This section should define your potential customers, what your projected growth is, competitors for bench marking purposes and a realistic assessment of the current situation your business is in. Let us begin with the analogy:

There is a growing trend to get fit and healthy, I just have to look around me people are either walking for exercise or running formally in races or informally with their friends. I also believe that the number of young people that are dying of coronary diseases is on the rise (that should wake me up or in business sense its either an opportunity or a threat). My family, colleagues and friends have been running or walking for exercise in the past year and I have either been cheering them on or watching them with a glass of wine in hand. As I take a critical look at myself, the thought of exercise downright tires me, however I recognise a trend and I want to be part of it simply because being fit has positive benefits.

In January 2015, I entered the market and participated in my first 5kms Park run and that gave me a benchmark of my competitive position (brand position) after being ranked no 371 and finishing it in 56 minutes (don’t judge me), the stats of the Park Run I participated in (or my brand category) are as follows: Average number of runners per week: 363; Number of runners: 4,801; Biggest Attendance: 688; Average run time: 00:36:25). It is very important to understand the category you are playing in so that you can plan effectively and defend your position.

I understand that walking for exercise is the easiest space to play in, as I am currently unfit (I am choosing a category playing on my strengths), however I am also aware of the fun run space -5Kms, 10Kms etc.- as well as the serious running space-half marathons and marathons. It is imperative that you define your category correctly as per Levitt 1960, don’t suffer from marketing myopia, otherwise you will be blindsided and benchmark incorrectly. This incorrect definition of category will lead to narrow thinking for example data could show that you are number one in your narrowly defined category when in fact you are competing with a larger competitive set (is ice tea in its own category or in the drinks category) or see Nokia case study are you in the Smart Phone vs. Feature phone category or in the phone category. Its important to identify your direct as well as indirect competitors as we are operating in blurred boundaries, (Africa’s prevalence of mobile money means banks compete with telcos is a cell phone a competitor to a watch? Etc.) Okay I digressed.

So What! Thus as a brand I have done a trend analysis and found a lucrative opportunity that I must capitalise on, but I also understand that compared to others I have a few weaknesses that I need to address in order to compete (competitor benchmarking in the RIGHT category is NB, am I competing with runners of parkrun or runners in general?)

Objective Setting: This is probably the most important step in strategy that if done incorrectly, I will be running in the wrong direction. From my Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT), my Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely (SMART) objectives are derived:

  • Medium Term: To create prompted awareness of Judith as a runner (50%) amongst my peers and race events by the end of 2015 (only because I get bragging points)
  • Short term: To set a new 5K/10K/marathon personal record against my current 56 minutes for a 5Kms by the end of 2015
  • Long Term: To finish in the top 20 of all races I participate in by end of 2018 (my market share, with the right strategy it can be done)

Strategy (Why, What, How and measurement)

Now that I know what my goals are, WHAT in the world am I going to do to reach them (need to be careful here not to mix the strategy which is the WHAT and the how which is the tactics I will use and most importantly bench marking and measurement controls.

The easiest thing is to create a table from here onwards as crosschecking keeps you honest:

This is a very simplified version as research is usually required to conduct a full SWOT analysis and a budget needs to be taken into consideration. Notice that some of the objectives are collapsed into one strategy but yet many tactics that is also OK! Also your tactics should be pretty detailed, radio interviews on what radio stations etc, which races will you be running etc.

Also please remember because a strategy is a plan, things change, you might not have all the resources to do what you planned thus keep revisiting your your plan! Happy Planning and wish me luck!

Number of kms in a year

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Number of kms in a year

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