Driving Force and the Impact on Marketing

Earlier in my career I was fortunate to work with Ben Tregoe, founder of the consulting firm Kepner-Tregoe, and the co-developer of the Driving Force® concept in strategy formulation. In its simplest form, a company’s Driving Force is its central focus and, as such, guides everything the company does from product development, to mergers and acquisitions, to performance management, to marketing. Dr. Tregoe and his colleagues identified nine possible Driving Forces, listed here with very short descriptions:

  • Products/Services Offered – focused on a set group of products/services offered to customers across industries and geographies.
  • Markets Served – focused on serving specific customer groups by offering them a wide variety of products/services.
  • Low-Cost Production – focused on increasing levels of efficiency to avoid raising prices.
  • Operations Capability – sometimes confused with Low-Cost Production, focused on the process of product/service delivery, rather than purely cost.
  • Method of sale/distribution – focused on a unique method of transacting business and/or delivering products/services to customers.
  • Technology – focused on creating technology, not merely harnessing the benefits of technology.
  • Natural Resources – focused on managing, converting and/or distributing natural resources.
  • Return/Profit – focused on segments and product/services where the company sees the greatest financial gains based on trends and opportunities.

Given the Driving Force descriptions, it is easy to see how a company could be torn between two and maybe three possible Driving Forces. For example, a company could be Markets Served but have a strong bent forwards Operations Capability. These decisions can be very difficult as they determine the future direction of the company, as well as resource allocation. The decisions are even more difficult when they mean a new direction for the company.

The beauty of the Driving Force concept is that it guides everything the company does and serves as a litmus test for all decisions. If a company’s Driving Force is Markets Served and it is considering acquisitions, it should only be looking at acquiring a company that serves its selected markets.

From a marketing standpoint, the Driving Force becomes the foundation of the company’s value proposition. For a Markets Served company it would clearly state the markets it serves in its value proposition. For example, its value proposition might contain wording like: “We provide law firms with a comprehensive array of products and services so they can better serve their clients and reduce their costs.”  By contrast, a Products/Services Offered company’s value proposition might contain something like: “We provide the most advanced document management software to help companies across industries. Our products are constantly tested and upgraded to assure they are the best on the market and exceeding customers’ expectations.”

Since many companies in the same industry can choose the same Driving Force, a Chief Marketing Officer must further refine the Driving Force to determine and communicate the company’s competitive advantage. This entails the full value proposition, which includes three key elements:

  • Broad Positioning – what products/services you offer to which marketsSpecific Positioning – of all the companies offering similar products/services to the same markets, what makes your company unique
  • Value Positioning – the cost/value relationship of your products/services compared to competitors’ offerings Driving Force is a great concept for getting the entire company on the same page about the future direction of the organization

Each functional area of the company can then use the selected Driving Force to determine application to its area of expertise. For marketing, it means digging deeper to develop a compelling value proposition and to communicate its competitive advantage.

Driving Force® is a registered trademark of Kepner-Tregoe, Inc.

© 2011-2017 Bill Fellows, Top-of-Mind Branding All Rights Reserved