Basically, strategy is about two things: deciding where you want your business to go, and deciding how to get there. A more complete definition is based on competitive advantage, the object of most corporate strategy: Competitive advantage grows out of value a firm is able to create for its buyers that exceeds the firm's cost of creating it. Value is what buyers are willing to pay, and superior value stems from offering lower prices than competitors for equivalent benefits or providing unique benefits that more than offset a higher price. There are two basic types of competitive advantage: cost leadership and differentiation.
-- Michael Porter, Competitive Advantage, 1985, p.3
The figure below defines the choices of "generic strategy" a firm can follow. A firm's relative position within an industry is given by its choice of competitive advantage (cost leadership vs. differentiation) and its choice of competitive scope. Competitive scope distinguishes between firms targeting broad industry segments and firms focusing on a narrow segment. Generic strategies are useful because they characterize strategic positions at the simplest and broadest level. Porter maintains that achieving competitive advantage requires a firm to make a choice about the type and scope of its competitive advantage. There are different risks inherent in each generic strategy, but being "all things to all people" is a sure recipe for mediocrity - getting "stuck in the middle".
Treacy and Wiersema (1995) offer another popular generic framework for gaining competitive advantage. In their framework, a firm typically will choose to emphasize one of three “value disciplines”: product leadership, operational excellence, and customer intimacy.
Porter's Generic Strategies (source: Porter, 1985, p.12)
•Porter, Michael, Competitive Advantage, The Free Press, NY, 1985. •Porter, Michael, "What is...