What are key success factors?

Each product or service has 2 or 3 things that they must do or make happen to be successful with customers.  These key success factors may be ones that you can control, influence, or reposition, but you may not be able to do anything about them at all.  Just knowing what these key success factors are –  as well as those of your competitors –  will give you a better understanding of your strengths and weaknesses in comparison to those of your competitors.  With a core understanding success factors, you can create an engaging message that resonates with your customers, letting them know why they should buy from you and not them.

Where to begin…

Evaluate the 4 marketing Ps – product, price, place, and promotion – of your product or service to determine where prospects actively and inadvertently ‘touch’ the competitor’s products.  In high level terms, the 4 marketing Ps describe the marketing mix that you’ll use to go to market.

The 4 Ps typically refer to the following:

  • Product describes what you sell and to whom
  • Place describes where you sell your product and how
  • Price information details what and how you charge end customers and channel partners
  • Promotion tells how you plan to extend your reach

With the impact of the internet on e-commerce, social media, and customer service, you should also consider two more Ps  – process and people.1  By focusing on processes, increased efficiencies and lower costs can lead to consumer-driven offerings that meet customer needs.  And with a focus on people, a business’s employees can provide superior and more consistent customer service.2

Next, research whether external or environmental factors impact your customer’s willingness to purchase your competitor’s product or service.

And finally, investigate what motivates your target customer to purchase.


If your competitor’s customer touch points are different from yours, how are they different and is that difference a strength or weakness in comparison to your offering?

If your competitor faces different factors than your organization does, do those factors work to your favor or disadvantage? Consider factors impacting your competitor’s ability to respond to market trends – from financing, product manufacturing, partners, marketing prowess, and customer support to management’s ability to lead and the infrastructure support required to execute go-to-market plans. (Often referred to as an opportunity or threat. See SWOT Analysis for more background.)

Developing an customer survey or asking a limited number of prospects what their thoughts are is a great way to find out what motivates your customer to make a purchase.

With a firm understanding of your key success factors and customer touch points, you’ll be laying the foundation for a competitive analysis, which will help you refine your customer message and develop a go-to-market plan to reach your target audience.

Discover more…

  1. Hayes, Bruce J. “Six Sigma Critical Success Factors.” iSixSigma. Last modified February 26, 2010. http://www.isixsigma.com/implementation/success-factors/six-sigma-critical-success-factors/.
  2. “Critical Success Factors – Identifying the Things That Really Matter for Success.” Mind Tools Ltd. Accessed November 18, 2021. https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_80.htm..
  3. “Define Critical Success Factors (CSF).” Clint Burdett Strategic Consulting. Accessed November 18, 2021. http://www.clintburdett.com/process/08_synthesis/synthesis_02_csf.htm#.Uz9WEPldV7t.
  4. Kilbourn, Chris (TOFU Marketing). “How to be the James Bond of the Web: 37 Best Marketing Tools to Spy on Your Competitors.” I’m Kind of a Big Deal, LLC (blog). Accessed November 18, 2021. https://neilpatel.com/blog/james-bond-of-the-web/.
  5. Krell, Eric. “The 6 Most Overlooked Customer Touch Points.” CRM Media, a division of Information Today, Inc. Accessed November 18, 2021. http://www.destinationcrm.com/Articles/Editorial/Magazine-Features/The-6-Most-Overlooked-Customer-Touch-Points-43348.aspx.
  6. Martin, Steve W. “Why Customers Don’t Buy.” Harvard Business Review Publishing (blog). Last modified May 13, 2013. http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2013/05/why_customers_dont_buy.html.
  7. Reilly, Moira. “How to Determine Critical Success Factors for Your Business.” ClearPoint Strategy. Last modified June 20, 2016. https://www.clearpointstrategy.com/how-to-determine-critical-success-factors-for-your-business/.
  8. “The Marketing Mix and 4 Ps: Understanding How to Position Your Market Offering.” Mind Tools Ltd. Accessed July 30, 2019. http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newSTR_94.htm.
1Ahmad Kareh, “Evolution Of The Four Ps: Revisiting The Marketing Mix,” Forbes, last modified January 3, 2018, https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2018/01/03/evolution-of-the-four-ps-revisiting-the-marketing-2010

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