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Market Share is Malarkey

Students, teachers, managers, and commentators all love market share.  Many think a reasonable business goal is to increase market share. My only question is: Why? To use a Joe Biden word, Market Share is Malarkey. [This was written in 2012, but Joe Biden phrases still work now in 2021].

Market Share Is Not The Same As Profit

A reasonable business goal is to make a profit. This will eventually turn into cash which buys nice things. Greed may be a vice but we all get why people seek nice things. After all, they are nice.

Market share is very different to profit. Later I’ll discuss the problems in assuming market share is a proxy for profit. I will discuss research that warns about chasing share. But for today I will simply ask: Market share, why do you care?

Tell Yourself A Story About Market Share

You may have a story you tell yourself. Maybe you assume market share leads to market power that you hope leads to profits. If however, you are seeking profits why not discuss future profits while explaining your assumptions? My point isn’t that market share is never an indicator of success, my point is that market share isn’t an end in itself.

The next time someone targets market share press them on why. There may be a kernel of sense in their thinking but my bet is that there isn’t. They just think market share sounds good and don’t have a clear plan how it will translate into something they really care about.

Market Share is Malarkey

To summarize let me quote from a 1989 Harvard Business Review article.

Chasing market share is almost as productive as chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. You can never get there. Even if you could, you would find nothing….. Market share is malarkey.

Henderson, 1989
Gold Bar From Pixabay on

Maybe this quote is wrong in your specific firm, in your specific industry, in this specific year but at least be prepared to give a well-thought-out reason why you care about market share.

For more on market share see here, here, and here.

Read: Bruce D. Henderson, The Origin of Strategy, Harvard Business Review, pages 139-143, November 1, 1989

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