Over the past nearly 3 decades, we have had the opportunity to work with many market leading companies. How they approach their business, the tools they use and the decisions they make differentiate them from the other companies in their space.
When a company establishes a leadership position, they may enjoy many benefits including:
- Heightened brand recognition and loyalty
- Elevated access to customer data
- Increased cost efficiencies
- Premium pricing
In this article, we will share the fundamental building blocks you need to establish and maintain a strong market leadership position.
Defining Market Leadership
It is easy to identify some market leaders. These include Apple, Amazon, Google, Home Depot and other massive companies. But, this article is not focused on how to become a company doing half a trillion dollars in sales each year. That is an entirely different journey. In this article we are going to focus on how you can take an established company doing less than $100 million a year in sales and turn that company into a market leader.
To be a market leader, there are two key terms we need to clearly define. The first of these is market. This can have a broad spectrum of meanings. It can be the global industry in which your business participates. McDonalds is the global leader in the fast food market. This can also be scaled down quite a bit. A company can be the leading provider of a specific type of product or service in the US, a specific region, or even in a specific metropolitan area. Any of these can be a market. You must simply define the market in which you want to lead. To begin your ascent to a market leader, take a minute and write down how you will define your market.
The second of the two words is leadership. Again, this can be defined in many ways. Some of the most popular ways to measure leadership include:
- Most products sold or largest market share
- Most dollars in sales or the most profitable company
- The most recognized brand or the first to market
To establish your company as a market leader, you much first define your definition of leadership. Now, write down your definition of what leadership means for you.
Identify and Understand Your Competitive Landscape
To win at anything, you must first understand your competitive landscape. In the step above, you wrote down what you consider to be your target market and how you will define your leadership position. In this step, we will identify with whom you are competing and important insights into what becoming the leader will take. We are going to approach gaining this critical knowledge in multiple steps.
List Your Market Competitors
Based upon your identified market, begin by listing your competitors. You can build this list in several ways.
- Ask your sales team who they run across the most in competitive sales
- Ask your customers who they see as your competitors
- Conduct a Google search for the keywords under which your customers would search for your products and services to see who is ranking
If you provide multiple products or services, be sure research and document your competition for each of your primary, core services. You may have competitors who provide a more specialized offering. You do not want to ignore these companies.
Understand Their Positioning
For each competitor, you need to understand how they are positioning themselves in your market. You can gain a lot of insights by reviewing your competitors’ website and social media channels. You can also engage a marketing firm to conduct this market research for you. Some of the market insights that you should come to understand include:
- Their brand messaging – How do they describe their products or services? Do they state USPs (Unique Selling Propositions)? How do they describe their customer service? What are they offering that is over and above what you provide? How are they engaging new prospective customers / clients?
- Their pricing – How are they pricing their products and services? What is included or excluded from this pricing? How does their pricing compare to your pricing?
- Their website – How does their website compare to yours:
- Number of pages indexed on Google
- Their domain authority
- Their inbound link profiles
- Their rankings on Google
- The keywords for which they trying to rank on Google
- The content they are generating regularly
- Their social media presence – How are they using these channels and engaging their audiences on social media? For each channel, you should document:
- The content they are generating and the frequency of posts
- How large a community they have created and the level of engagement their audience exhibits
Assess Yourself – Based on The Data
Based on the data above, assess how are you doing. Remember to always assess yourself through the eyes of your target audience, not your own biased point of view:
- Is your messaging differentiating and more compelling to your specific target audience(s) than your competitors’?
- Is your pricing and / or the value you provide to your customers / clients stated better or in a more compelling way than that of your competitors?
- Is your online presence impressive enough to lead in your market?
Dig into each of these key areas, document the competitive benchmarks, and identify the areas in which you need to do better.
Document Industry Trends
To lead within a market, it is important to understand where that market is going as well as possible. All markets are in a constant state of flux and evolution. Take time to conduct some research to help you better understand what changes are taking place within your market. Some common changes that you may be able to identify include:
- Changing trends in consumer demand or consumption
- Changing pricing or value trends
- Societal changes that may impact future demand or consumption
- New technologies that may interrupt your market
- Changes in the way your products or services are delivered
- New upcoming competitors who are revolutionizing the market
Be sure to document the trends you have explored and documented for future success planning.
Create Your Strengths Inventory
It is impossible to create a competitive advantage or leadership in any market without capitalizing on your strengths as an organization. To identify your strengths, you can conduct a SWOT. But this must be done correctly. Here are some helpful pointers:
- Strengths are always internal to your organization:
- What do you do well?
- What resources do you have to draw from?
- What do others perceive as your strengths?
- Weaknesses are always internal to your organization:
- What could you improve?
- Where do you have fewer resources than others?
- What do others see as your weaknesses?
- Opportunities are always external to your organization:
- What opportunities are open to you?
- Of what trends could you possibly take advantage?
- How can you leverage your strengths to create market opportunities?
- Threats are always external to your organization:
- What possible threats could harm you?
- What is your competition doing that could impact you?
- What threats do your weaknesses expose?
Some organizations find it useful to conduct a reverse SWOT. This approach reorders the conversation by starting with the Opportunities and the Threats first.
You may also try creating a SWOT for your key operational areas to identify additional insights. Some of your key operational areas might include marketing, sales, operations, HR, data analytics and innovation.
Once you have completed your SWOT, use this to identify your organization’s top 4 or 5 strengths upon which you can best create your market leadership. These are the strengths upon which you will capitalize to build your position.
Outline Your Plan
Now that you have identified the market in which you want to lead, how you define leadership, your competitive landscape and your strengths upon which you can capitalize, you have all the information needed to develop your market leadership plan. Below we have outlined how to best organize this plan for your success.
Critical Areas of Focus
Outline the 3 to 5 (never more than 5) areas in which you must succeed to achieve your market leadership goal. Some of these areas might include:
- New product or service innovation
- Raising capital
- Acquiring market share
The time horizon for these areas of focus may span many years. They are the keys to your success in achieving your goals.
From your critical areas of focus, develop your annual priorities. Once again, the fewer of these you create, the higher your likelihood of achieving them. These are the specific areas of focus you must achieve in the coming year. They need to be specific as to how you will measure success, and they need to be broad enough to allow for their evolution throughout the year.
An example of an annual priority might be to implement a new CRM to meet your growth plan.
From your annual priorities, develop your quarterly priorities. The fewer of these you create, the higher your likelihood of achieving them. These are the specific areas of focus you must achieve in order to complete your annual priorities. They need to be specific as to how you will measure success. These priorities will be far more specific than your annual priorities.
An example of a quarterly priority might be to finalize your selection of the new CRM your will implement.
From your quarterly priorities, you will develop the specific projects needed in the quarter for you succeed. We call these projects or initiatives SMARTs. Other systems may refer to them as Rocks. These initiatives must be very specific and clear. They should detail and document all of these critical elements:
- The specifics of the initiative
- Who is responsible for completing the work
- Who is accountable for measuring and reporting the progress of the work
- How the success of the initiative will be measured.
- The specific timeline in which the initiative must be completed.
An example of a SMART might be to create a requirements document for your new CRM system. This would include content outlining:
- How this should be done,
- When this should be complete
- What information this should include
- Who should be interviewed to gather the information
- Who is responsible for doing what
- Who is reporting project progress
- How the success of the initiative will be measured.
Build Your Team
Now that you have a multi-year plan for leading your market, it is time to expand and build your team. Your team should share an established set of core values and be committed to the vision you have created.
As you build your team, it is critical to hire talented people who will enthusiastically fulfill the needs of the strategy you have developed while being aligned with a set of core values that provide the “how” for all that your business does.
As you invite new people to join your team, they should not only be a cultural fit, but a cultural add. They should be individuals who are excited about the market leadership goals you have set and fully committed to being a part of high performing team who will achieve these goals. For more on this, read our blog post, The Critical Steps to Build Cultural Alignment with Your Team.
Implement the Necessary Performance Intelligence Systems
As you developed your market leadership plan, you documented what market leadership means to you. This definition should provide your primary set of KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). These are the initial numbers upon which your success towards this goal will be measured.
If you stated your goal was to have the largest percentage market share, then this is something that you must measure. If your stated goals was to have the broadest brand awareness, then this is something that you must measure. Without the right measurement systems, it is impossible to engage your team with the progress towards reaching your goals. You will also have no way to know when you have succeeded.
Creating the right measures is not always easy. You may need to get creative as to how you measure some things, but the accurate measurement of what you are planning to achieve is imperative.
Once you have established the necessary systems to measure your primary KPIs, you will need additional reports to measure your contributing KPIs. For example, to achieve the largest percentage market share, the contributing KPIs might include:
- The number of new customers / clients acquired
- The number of new target customer / client leads generated
- Your overall client retention rate for repeat or ongoing purchases
The better the measurement systems you create, the higher the probability of your success.
FAQs – Leading Your Market
How long will it take for me to build my business into a market leader?
If you follow these steps, the knowledge and insights gained will begin shaping your decisions almost immediately, within 2 to 4 weeks. As you identify and understand your marketplace at a deeper level, your decisions will elevate further. Then over the next several months, as you create your annual plan, quarterly initiatives and SMARTs, you will start to hit your stride and enjoy a far better handle on every aspect of your business. After you have established your tracking systems and practiced regularly hitting your KPIs, you will begin to experience transformational change. This phase normally takes 18 to 24 months.
What are the biggest challenges in implementing a market leadership plan?
There are a couple challenges we have seen with implementing a plan like this.
The first is a lack of commitment and organization. Business executives tend to get caught up on the day-to-day. Creating and implementing this type of strategy takes a lot of time and effort. After the initial excitement, some executives will stop allocating the time necessary to the develop a sound plan for market leadership.
The second challenge is a lack of discipline to stay focused and implement. So many businesses create annual plans, but they do not create the tracking systems necessary or a success rhythm of regular check-ins and reviews to ensure they achieve their goals.
What To Do Next
Work with your leadership team to review the steps outlined in this article. Coordinate and begin assigning responsibilities. Complete these steps in order, get together, review the data, discuss what you have learned and discuss the next steps.
As you work through this process, all those participating will gain a sense of clarity and direction. As leaders, you will begin creating a company with a more compelling goal and start putting all the critical pieces together.
If you need some help working through these steps, let us know. Our purpose is To Empower Passionate People to Thrive. We’d be happy to chat and help!
Webolutions is a full-spectrum management consulting and strategic growth implementation agency. We help businesses across the country identify and effectively bring their unique stories to life, empowering them to scale faster, smarter, and easier.
Areas of expertise:
- Differentiating Brand Development
- Marketing & Communications Strategies
- Customer Journey Mapping & Execution
- Enterprise Website & Application Development
- Cross-Platform Data Systems Integration
- Organizational Development Strategies
- Team Alignment, Culture, & Performance Solutions
- Business Performance Intelligence Systems
A Special Offer
To speak with one of our experts about how you can implement these strategies for your company of at least $5 million in annual sales, call us at 303-300-2640 and request your market leadership consultation. During this 60-minute introduction, we’ll help you start creating a plan for success. You can also email any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.