Another technique for competitive analysis that we have adopted at vSente is based upon the military concept of center of gravity. Center of gravity analysis establishes the relative strengths and vulnerabilities of two or more adversaries as they compete for a mutually desired objective. In war this objective is typically terrain. In business the battle is for customers.
Proper CG analysis will tell you what to attack and what NOT to attack. Applying CG analysis to business is a process of understanding and exploiting the relationships between two or more adversaries competing for market share. The intent of CG analysis is to uncover exploitable vulnerabilities within your adversary. If you’re simply projecting your strength against your competitor’s strength then you have a war of attrition on your hands. Some marketers follow a single-dimensional approach to competitor analysis by focusing on only their strength... and then promoting this strength... oblivious to how this measures up to competitor strengths and/or customer needs. The concept of center of gravity has received much attention by the military as the basis for formulating battle strategy.
Carl von Clausewitz(13) the nineteenth century Prussian soldier and writer was the first to apply the term “center of gravity” to warfare. He described a center of gravity as,
“the hub of all power and movement, on which everything depends.”
Clausewitz clarifies this description by stating that:
“the ultimate substance of enemy strength must be traced back to the fewest possible sources, and ideally to one alone.”
Other writers have used terms such as “vital centers,” “key nodes,” “decisive points,” or “critical vulnerabilities” to approach the same concept. The “hub of power and movement” itself is the “center of gravity.”
Take the “hub” away and the enemy system ceases to function or the enemy ceases to act against you. That “hub” has certain characteristics, among them critical vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities will naturally flow into target sets. From these target sets, individual targets can be identified and attacked as required to support the campaign’s objectives. Given proper analysis, successfully attacking those targets will decisively affect the center of gravity.
Center of gravity represents strength. Your strength. The strength of your adversary(s). All relative to the needs of the customer.
13. On War. Carl von Clausewitz. Edited by Anatol Rapoport. London. Penguin Classics. 1968