Aug 05 2013

Marketplace Leadership Builds An Extraordinary Business

Category: businessGuest Author


Have you ever seen firms in your industry that started out, puppets-on-stringperhaps where you are, then grew into well-known brands? Do you ever wonder to yourself how they do it? Do you think it is just a matter of getting more money, having a better network or being able to connect with their audiences in a mystical, magical way?

Guess what? You can do the same thing with your brand. You can build a company that meets the needs of a particular audience, communicate it to the audience, ensure that they are able to access it, make it appear attractive and keep them coming back for more because they perceive great value in what you offer.

Think about it: if others have done it, why can’t you be a marketplace leader?

If you aren’t leading your market, you are getting dragged behind…struggling just to keep up.

The marketplace leader is the company that has built the brand, the level of visibility and trust in the marketplace so that whenever the company’s target market considers purchasing, seeks benchmarking or expertise, they think of that company.

  • If you think about soda, you might think about Coke or Pepsi
  • If you think about going to a brick and stick store for basic items, you might think of Wal-Mart.
  • If you think of an online retailer, you might think of Amazon.

Here’s the thing – even if you don’t think about them, their target audiences probably do! and you simply may not be in their target markets. Which (should be) okay!

Define, clearly, who you are selling to. Consider this: according to an article in FastCompany, Abercrombie & Fitch was attacked because it clearly defined its market and focused all of its products to serve the needs of that market. (The article mentions that they came under criticism because they don’t sell larger sizes.)

Think about it, though: As a business leader, can you deliver products and services for everyone? With limited resources, can you market to everyone? Of course not! While many consumers wouldn’t think about Abercrombie as their store of choice, the $3.8B company trading at $49.69 per share has tapped into a market that does.

As a business leader, clearly defining your market is foundational to leading your market. They need to be able to identify with what you are offering, be able to put themselves into your offering and understand the benefits.

A piece of advice: If your market is small businesses, narrow it down. If it is small businesses in the Southeast. Narrow it down. Narrow down your target market to the level that your business could communicate with in order to make them aware and interested in your products and services.

Have a distinctive brand. If you look at Marvel Comic’s superhero movies (Check out the link to the new Avenger’s 2 movie announced at Comic-Con!) – the Avengers, Ironman, Thor, the Hulk, etc., you wouldn’t confuse them at all with production from the Public Broadcasting station.

Why is that? Marvel has clearly defined their brand, even to the extent that people familiar with the brand would not confuse it with their biggest competitor: DC Comics, who produces Superman “Man of Steel” or the Batman “the Dark Knight” series. The reason for this is brand clarity.

Brand clarity suggests that your target market – your consumers – can clearly tell the difference between your brand and the brand of your competitors. Again – Coke and Pepsi – to non soda drinkers – sell the same product. A cola beverage.

However, to those that like one or the other – the company’s target markets – one is not a substitute for the other.

Match your pricing and services to market expectations. Understand that you cannot please everyone and you cannot market to everyone. People don’t go to Wal-Mart for fine china dishware. They go for discounted glassware and plates.

People don’t go to the BMW dealer for an inexpensive family minivan. Your pricing and product need to be aligned with the brand you have created. But don’t forget the add on value!

BMW vehicles come with the pride of ownership, perhaps a status symbol, an attitude or exclusivity, which most consumers can’t attach a dollar value to. Think about how you can add perceived value to your product.

Help consumers know where to get it. If they don’t know where to get it, they can’t buy it. It is that simple..

If you go to a Jeep Dealer, you should find Jeeps. If you go to a grocery store, you should find food.

If they expect it to be somewhere that it is not, you may lose a sale to a competitor that is properly positioned. Even if you have an exclusive brand – one that has limited distribution. If the draw for the item or brand is strong enough, it will overcome limited distribution.

Communicate with your audiences, but in the right way. Here’s the thing: not everyone receives information the same way, and most people aren’t ready to buy when you are ready to sell. Therefore, you are going to need to find out what the best and most cost effective ways to communicate with your particular audience are.

You probably won’t see Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream promoting their products on the Health Network, or Clorox promoting their bleach in a “Green” magazine. Obviously, these would not be effective promotions.

Marketing to Gen Xer’s might require that you are someone cynical and arrogant in your marketing, promoting independence and breaking the rules. If you SPAM them or market directly to their mobile device, or call them! they will probably consider it an invasion of privacy.

Marketing to the 18 – 22 year old crowd, however, might look like enhancing their ability to express themselves and display their uniqueness using mobile marketing with secret sales, an interactive website and some social aspect, such as on Tumbler.

Why? Because different markets communicate differently. Simply because you “put it out there” doesn’t mean that people will be receptive to it.

Keep in mind – marketing is not a one-time thing, and all marketing has a shelf life. It isn’t a “set it and forget it” event. Tracking your communications efforts – and all of your marketing efforts – will tell you when you need to make a change.

The other half of communication is the right messaging. Having the answer, sometimes to the question that isn’t asked. At one point, Apple mastered this; the company sells computers, MP3 players, tablets and phones. However, their messaging was along the lines of “if you purchase this amazing device, your life will be better.”

Instead of look at selling the widget, they talked about why someone would want to purchase their widget! They answered the unasked question of “How can my life be better?” Brian Barrett at in an article called “The Only Thing Apple Really Sells” suggests that Apple isn’t a hardware or a software company – they are an ecosystem company.”

Can your brand do that?

Consider this: they didn’t say, “We have something that will pull you out of the sad existence you are experiencing.” They didn’t focus on the pain, but rather the pleasure or opportunity. This is appropriate for their positioning. As a plumber, however, you will probably want to get people to act based on their pain. Marketing is not a one size fits all.

Finally, listen to your target market and make adjustments appropriately. I love the story of how Rick Warren started Saddleback Church. This guy “Rick Warren” arrives in Saddleback Valley and asked people what they liked and didn’t like about church. Not just people who went to church, but those that didn’t go. Bingo! I think we have a winner!

The church is a market leader. According to the link, one in nine people in South Orange County California (pop. 3,010,232) call Saddleback their church.

Again – if you listen to everyone, you will end up with a mess. A lot of people liked “New Coke” when it came out. However, the company’s heaviest consumers – those who were responsible for the bulk of their revenue – were unhappy. It was as though prohibition had hit. Coke quickly restored the original recipe and “New Coke” is a story of poor marketing decisions.

Being a leader in your marketplace means that

  • you are offering the right product or service to your market
  • at the right price,
  • have the right message
  • have the right availability/distribution,
  • have attached the right brand and
  • add on value and
  • listen to your audience

Think about this: all of the brands that were mentioned, above, started out right where you were: as a small business. They got to where they are by doing the things above. Did they make mistakes? I am sure that most of them did. Did they get money in order to grow their businesses? a) it takes money to grow a business and b) they developed offerings that were compelling enough to get people to invest in them. It is still marketing.

Does this sound like another job?

Yes. Yes it is. If you are hungry, you go find something to eat. If you are planning on building an extraordinary business, you find some way to get it done. Do it yourself, hire someone or hire a firm.

One last thought: a bad job will do more harm than good. This will probably be the difference between your company’s success and its barely hanging on to survive.

If you aren’t leading your market, you are getting dragged behind…struggling just to keep up.

Rick Meekins is the Managing Consultant at Aepiphanni, the trusted advisor for business leaders who are seeking forward-thinking solutions to help them plan for and navigate through the challenges of business growth. Our entrepreneurial multidisciplinary team works with clients to develop differentiating solutions and provide direction focused on lasting, strategic results. We exist to help our clients CREATE | DESIGN | BUILD extraordinary businesses.

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3 Responses to “Marketplace Leadership Builds An Extraordinary Business”

  1. Heather Stone says:

    Marketplace leadership means doing much more than simply adapting to your competitors. Usually it means doing something completely different and leading the way. It means jumping forward, and, as quickly as markets are changing these days, it probably means being able to do it again and again. Thanks to Tome Shivers for sharing this post on BizSugar.
    Heather Stone recently posted..3 Web Visitor Engagement Lessons from Restaurant OwnersMy Profile

  2. Marketplace Leadership | Extraordinary Business - Aepiphanni Business Consulting says:

    […] our conversation, I put together a post “Marketplace Leadership Builds an Extraordinary Business,” which you can see on Tom’s website.  Here is a link to the post. As always, I would love […]

  3. Marketplace Leadership | Extraordinary Business | Extraordinary Small Business Consutling | Operations & Strategy | Aepiphanni says:

    […] our conversation, I put together a post “Marketplace Leadership Builds an Extraordinary Business,” which you can see on Tom’s website.  Here is a link to the post. As always, I would love […]