Your In-Depth Guide To a Cost-Leadership Strategy

02 May 2023 by Shweta Jhajharia

If your industry is very competitive, you’ll need a variety of strategies to stay ahead of the pack and stay in demand. The cost leadership strategy employed in strategic management is one such method that you’ll find to be really useful.

Cutting operational expenses to provide goods or services at the lowest prices has been a big game-changer that is providing large corporations more market domination and significant market share – from cost leaders like Amazon to Walmart and perhaps the most famous cost leader McDonalds to lesser-known but extremely profitable brands like Primark.

A 2014 study found that companies which adopted cost leadership strategies had a better chance of surviving the 2007 economic recession.

The cost strategy has been around for a while, but it’s still useful for modern corporate procedures and winning marketing plans.

You can develop a distinctive cost-saving plan that will offer you a competitive advantage in the market you operate in by knowing how this technique works and how successful businesses are using it. So here’s your expert in-depth guide to cost leadership strategy.

What is a cost leadership strategy?

A cost-leadership strategy is a business strategy employed by companies to establish themselves as the lowest-priced supplier in a certain market.

The cost leadership strategy is one of the Generic Strategies that eminent author Michael Porter introduced, and it can be used by businesses of all sizes in all sectors and with all types of goods and services to be offered at low prices.

The goal of the approach is to lower manufacturing costs so that the final product or service has a unit cost that is significantly lower than the unit costs of equivalent goods or services offered by your rivals.

The cost reduction for a brand should be applied to each and every good or service connected to that brand. When only one or a small number of your products are available at a lower price, you can’t have a solid reputation as a manufacturer of affordable, high-quality goods. 

The affordability should be evident in the full range of goods and services that your company provides to become a cost leader, a good example of this are cost leaders Ryanair, who have a longstanding cost leadership strategy which helps them remain one of the cheapest airlines to fly with.

Cost Leadership vs Price Leadership

Although there is a difference, cost leadership and price leadership are frequently used interchangeably.

Price leadership refers to your items having a reputation for being the most affordable in their category (i.e., the least expensive to buy), whereas the lowest production cost is referred to as cost leadership.

Naturally, firms who are outpacing their competitors in terms of costs have the option to become the price leader by lowering their pricing.

With an aggressive pricing approach, a brand can be the price leader without being the cost leader, but if the cost leader, you can always undercut your rivals.

Some businesses cut their pricing to boost sales in an effort to win the price war. This is unsustainable and could result in substantial losses. On the other hand, if you can create a business-level strategy that will assist you in reducing operating costs, you can reduce pricing while still making a profit.

Advantages of cost leadership strategy

Reduce costs

Most cost leaders concentrate their efforts on boosting the effectiveness of manufacturing procedures to reduce production costs. Their reduced overhead enables them to reduce prices while maintaining a profit.

Withstand price wars

Cost leaders are well-equipped to cut expenses, which can put the brakes on competitiveness. If they cannot be certain they will succeed, higher-priced competitors are less likely to want to actively compete with cost leaders.

Increased market share

Customers that are sensitive to pricing tend to favour businesses who sell products at the lowest prices. As a result, the business with the lowest prices is probably going to sell the most units. A company’s market share grows the more units it sells. The unit cost thus falls as a company’s market share increases, potentially resulting in even higher profits.

Disadvantages of cost leadership strategy

Dependant on high sales

Cost leaders profit margins are inevitably thin. This means that in order to succeed, they must sustain a large number of sales.


Cost-cutting innovators must continually come up with fresh strategies. Competitors are likely to copy an efficient cost-cutting strategy as soon as it is discovered by a corporation. Cost leaders risk suffering big losses if they are unable to maintain constant cost reduction.

Market changes

It might be difficult to stay on top of consumer trends and grow your business when your business strategy is focused on cost reduction. Cost leaders could be dedicated to creating cutting-edge technologies in order to lower manufacturing costs, only to discover that market preferences have changed and the technology is now no longer relevant.

Does your small business need help with cost leadership or growth strategies?

You can get help from Growth Idea’s business strategy experts in developing the best corporate and business strategies for your small company.

Our expert team works hard to improve your chances of success. If you’re ready to advance your business, get in touch with us right away for a free consultation. Together, we’ll create a tailored teaching approach that addresses your specific requirements and goals.

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Cost leadership strategy FAQs

What is Porter’s cost leadership strategy?

By appealing to customers that are budget-conscious or price-sensitive, the company can increase its market share. The best way to do this is to offer the lowest prices in the target market segment, or at the very least the lowest price to value ratio (price in relation to what customers get).

What are the benefits of a cost strategy?

Increased market size, a higher likelihood of surviving economic downturns, more money available for upgrades, and higher profit margins are all benefits of the cost leadership strategy.

What is the weakness of cost leadership?

The requirement for large sales volume might be a significant drawback of a cost leadership approach in particular circumstances. Markets with a high degree of brand loyalty and market fragmentation may not have many opportunities to draw in a sizable client base.

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Shweta Jhajharia

Shweta Jhajharia is one of the leading authorities on Business Value Building and the creator of the unique 6M Model. Shweta is widely respected as an impactful, intelligent and results orientated professional who helps business leaders unleash their potential to reach meaningful, higher objectives. This realisation of potential and maximisation... Read more