Specialization or Diversification: How to Find the Right Growth Strategy for Your Business?

In a constantly evolving business landscape, the question of specialization versus diversification remains crucial for companies seeking growth. Finding the right strategy can determine their success or failure.

In this article, we explore the ins and outs of each approach, providing a valuable guide to help you navigate this strategic dilemma and make informed decisions to grow your business.

1. Specialization: The Ultimate Growth Lever

Specialization involves focusing your company’s efforts on a specific area of activity to achieve an exceptional level of mastery and develop undeniable competitive advantages. When opting for a differentiation strategy, the goal is to offer a perceived value that is unique and attractive in the market, refining your specific costs to gain an indisputable competitive edge.

a. Align Your Strategy with Your Development Stage

Specialization involves concentrating on a specific market segment, product, service, or even a limited geographic area. To succeed in this endeavor, you need to:

  • Capitalize on Your Distinctive Competencies and Develop Deep Expertise: Consolidate and expand your existing know-how by leveraging the resources and skills you already possess.
  • Strengthen Your Reputation and Improve the Satisfaction of Your Targeted Customers: Adopt a competitive strategy focused on cost leadership or differentiation.

Specialization represents the most effective strategy for growing your business. It’s crucial to maintain this approach until your company reaches a position that offers a sustainable competitive advantage. Perseverance is key until you have achieved a distinctive and advantageous market position. In a highly competitive environment, this strategy will help you gain a dominant position in your strategic business area.

b. Explore Geographic Expansion

Determine the relevant geographic scope for your business by analyzing specific costs, which are unique to an activity and its development in a new geographic area, and shared costs, which are common to multiple activities:

  • If shared costs exceed specific costs, this is your relevant market. Focus on this market where synergies can be exploited in a unique framework.
  • If shared costs equal specific costs, you are in a hybrid situation, between the coexistence of different segments and consolidation into a single segment.
  • If shared costs are lower than specific costs, the market is too broad, and different strategic segments coexist.

c. Focus on Marketing Diversification

Without requiring the acquisition of new skills, specialize your business through marketing diversification:

  • New Products for Current Customers: Offer new products similar to key success factors to meet the varied needs of your traditional customer base and maximize synergy between products.
  • New Customers for Current Products: Expanding your customer base may require acquiring new skills, such as adapting the distribution scheme.

2. Broaden Your Horizons: The Keys to a Successful Diversification Strategy

While specialization involves exploiting a specific set of skills, diversification requires acquiring a new set of skills, adapted to the company’s new competitive environment.

a. Build on Solid Foundations: The Essential Pillars of Your Strategy

  • Business and Activity Area: Diversification involves changing the area of activity, whether through expansion or the coexistence of multiple main activities.
  • Synergy: Diversification is achieved progressively by making the most of skill synergies to open new horizons. However, evaluating the synergies between the traditional activity and the new one is delicate, and overestimation can lead to failure.
  • Technology and Market: Using technological expertise and market knowledge, your company can innovate with new products or services or extend its current market to new customers.

b. Find the Perfect Dimension for Your Diversification

Choose the path of diversification that matches your ambitions:

  • Geographic Diversification: Step out of your relevant market through an analysis of specific/shared costs and identify new key success factors by analyzing the new competitive structure.
  • Vertical Diversification: Acquire new skills and strengthen your competitive potential in your original activity. Examine the competitive potential brought by integration and establish captive relationships with upstream and downstream parties in the supply chain to generate a decisive competitive advantage in terms of cost and/or quality.
  • Horizontal Diversification: Enter different business areas from your main activity by relying on synergies and complementarities.

c. Define Your Course: Choose the Type of Diversification That Suits You

Study the attractiveness of your segment and your competitive position to determine the right diversification to adopt:

  • Placement Diversification: For companies that derive a net cash surplus from their main activity.
  • Redeployment Diversification: A medium-term development plan to counter strategic decline. The choice of diversification area should consider the growth potential of the new business more than its immediate profitability.
  • Consolidation Diversification: For companies seeking to differentiate themselves in a competitive market. It often refers to a differentiation strategy, where adding a related activity to the company’s traditional business allows it to challenge the unfavorable volume logic.
  • Survival Diversification: For companies poorly positioned in the competitive game, finding a business area that ensures their sustainability.

d. Beware of the Risks Induced by This Strategy

While there seems to be an ideal point of diversification, exceeding it can lead to reduced profitability and company value. Risks to consider include agency theory, increasing market complexity, and growing uncertainty in technologies and the environment.

3. Chart Your Growth Trajectory

a. Grow from Within: The Power of Internal Growth to Propel Your Business

  • Specialization: Increase your investments, expand your workforce, and extend your geographic reach to grow your business.
  • Diversification: Invest in innovation and learning capacity by establishing a research and development department and developing organizational flexibility to manage projects effectively.

b. Capture New Opportunities: Explore External Growth to Energize Your Expansion

Quickly acquire new skills or market shares by acquiring or partnering with other companies, either within your expertise for a specialization strategy or in other areas for a diversification strategy.

In a nutshell:

At OutMatch, we are trusted partners, specializing in supporting our clients in their growth with our unique methods: (i) defining organic strategy, (ii) implementing a tailored external growth strategy, and (iii) adapting financial engineering. Thus, we offer our clients the best tools and methods to develop according to a precise timeline.


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