7 Steps to market leadership
1. Manage Customer Perceptions
The customer’s mind is “the ultimate battleground” for businesses, and your objective must be to establish your product or service “on the top of the ladder” or “front of mind” in the customer’s head. Most customers can remember only five to seven brands per category, which represent rungs on the ladder, and your goal is to be on the No. 1 rung for each customer. In the battle for market share, how the customer perceives you, whether fact-based or not, is all-important!
2. Differentiate Yourself
What makes you stand out versus the competition? The companies that do stand out not only become top-of-mind in their marketplaces, but actually can “own” and become synonymous with certain words. Think about Volvo and safety, BMW and driving excitement, or Mercedes and quality engineering. For small businesses, differentiation is about finding and maximizing your point or points of difference versus the competition. Once you identify these attributes, you can better promote them and stand out. We want to have your customers think “Big Frog = custom shirts”!
3. Deal with Competition
How you should deal with your competition differs depending on your market share. Unless you are the recognized market leader, your main goal is to build awareness. Never attack the category leader by talking negatively about them or their products; that will make your customers doubt your integrity or wonder what your competition could say about you. Instead, promote your company’s strengths or the benefits you know other companies can’t match. Use “guerrilla” or street-level marketing tactics, including a wrapped vehicle, T-shirt giveaways and event appearances, to educate your community, build awareness and capture market share.
4. Specialize To Gain Competitive Advantage
In a highly competitive market dominated by bigger or more established players, the best strategy is often specialization. Identify what you can do better than anyone else, or determine an untapped market, and then exploit it. Be flexible and willing to change, though, as the marketplace evolves. The key to using specialization as a tool to gain market share is to focus on one product line or one major benefit to the customer and publicize it with a strong message. Is there something special, unique or magical about you, your process or product that could help you stand out? If so, you can gain an immediate advantage by being the first to promote it in the community.
5. Keep It Simple
Customers overwhelmingly reject complex ideas or products that stray too far from their image of the company’s brand. For example, the convertible Volvo is far removed from that company’s conservative image of safety, while the Porsche SUV is too much of a departure from their sports car heritage. You can’t be all things to all people; to try is a recipe for disaster! Do you remember the vitamin E supplement you could spray under your arms or Maalox-brand whipped cream? Chances are you don’t, or you thought them too weird at the time. You were right; keep it simple.
6. Lead Effectively
No one will follow you if you don’t know where you’re going! The responsibility of the leader is to know where the company is supposed to go, point it in the right direction and take it there. Of course, you must always be ready to adjust your course to make sure the company doesn’t go off your road to success. Leaders of companies should be bold and have courage, yet be flexible enough to move quickly when they see an opportunity.
7. Understand Your Business Reality
Most small business owners are lucky in this regard because they deal with the reality and challenges of their businesses every day. Some business owners believe things will never change, or that whatever worked in the past will continue to work in the future. At larger companies, leaders often are insulated from what’s really going on and must rely upon their employees to tell them what’s happening. These employees are may tell the leader what he or she wants to hear, depriving that leader of the necessary information to make decisions based on reality. It is the leader’s responsibility to understand that reality and make the appropriate adjustments quickly.