If your organization is in a leading or dominant position in your market(s), you’re considered a market leader. You see it in your financials. You see it in your ability to operate in the market. We can all agree that there are many advantages that come with being the market leader in any industry. Organizations in these positions often have the trust of the market, financial and talent resources, intellectual property and operational processes that help keep them in that position.
You, as a market leader, are well-positioned to change the game to your advantage.
Whether you’re in real estate, healthcare, professional services, technology, consumer products, consumer services, construction, business services, banking & finance, manufacturing or any other industry, the pressure is there. The pressure to stay on top. The pressure comes from several sources: disruption by technology, new types of competitors, new business models or changing preferences of end users.
As a market leader, you may be actively feeling these pressures that are forcing you to do things differently…
…you may not feel these pressures as much as your competitors, at least not yet.
Either way there is an opportunity here.
The game will eventually change with or without you, so why not take the initiative and cement your advantage? Technology, business models and operations models create advantages in themselves. They can even greatly increase profitability, but can they keep you on top?
Maybe. What are you willing to risk?
Staying on top eventually comes down to what customers value because revenue comes from customers. “Customers” in this context means customers, users, patients, buyers, resellers…anyone paying you money or generating money (as is the case of patients in the healthcare industry or buyers & sellers in the real estate industry). Everything else in business is moot if revenue is not coming in the front door at the necessary levels. We know this. The problem is that customers aren’t really good at telling us what they value, let alone what they would or could value.
That’s where the first part of the opportunity is.
You, as a market leader, have special circumstances that other players don’t have. This gives you the room to connect the dots of certain market behaviors to influence the shape of the market going forward. When you can shape the market in this way, you create additional natural advantages. You can continue to lead in every way. Finding the nuances in customer value is how to do it.
In order to do this, you must be able to, “see.”
You can string together certain market behaviors to create the picture for you understand where the nuances are. You then act accordingly to align market behaviors with your organization’s capacities, capabilities, assets and resources.
To “see” you must know your market, and I mean really know your market. You think you know, but do you? Do you have a deep understanding of your market?
A deep understanding your market(s) is not the same as trends and research. It’s intuitive, fact-based and unbiased. The market. How it behaves, how it feels, how competitors are playing, where the gaps are, what customers are really buying, how they behave, what they say as opposed to what they do, what they’re willing to pay for and not pay for, why they want what they want, what they don’t even realize they want, what is happening & why it’s happening.
This level of knowledge of your market(s) is intuitive, based on the facts without bias. The, “without bias” is the most important part. This is where an outside resource can be an incredible asset. You must act as the market is and not what you want it to be. The market is the market. It doesn’t care what your spreadsheet says or what your framework modeling shows. You won’t know success until you actually do it.
We all like to talk about business visionaries like Steve Jobs. This is what he did. He did not do “market research” necessarily, but he did understand what was actually happening in the market. He connected the dots of certain market behaviors and developed new products. He also had inside and outside people that helped overcome his biases (whether he actually wanted them to or not).
This has often been described as the ability for leadership to “see” around corners. You have to be able to “see.” The ability to “see” is dependent on knowing where to look.
So, where do you look? You look in the nuances of what customers value. Once you string together certain market behaviors to create the picture, you make slight changes in the way you interact with customers. This could be through new products like Steve Jobs did with Apple, or through other areas like technology or operations. The problem with starting in these areas of business is that these are the most costly places to start. In customer interactions, messaging is the lowest-cost place to start and then you can work from there.
This approach is not the norm in business.
This is the second part of the opportunity.
In these scenarios, most businesses start with operations, technology or new business models because that’s what’s most talked about in business media or by consultants. These are actually the most expensive places to start for a business.
Technology is often an added cost that also comes with a steep learning curve. Operational changes can be difficult and risk damaging the internal culture, especially if there are layoffs. New business models are always risky for incumbent businesses like market leaders, and the transition to a new business model can be expensive. These things are sometimes necessary and can be incredibly valuable, but you don’t have to start with them. When you start with customer interactions, you can bring in technology and changes in operations to accommodate customer interactions. You can delay large resource commitments and better control costs this way.
This way is not the norm in business, which means it should be important to you as a market leader. You didn’t get to be the market leader by being the norm, so why start now? Instead of benchmarking against competitors to confirm what you already know, outthink them. Outdo them. You have the resources and assets. Find the nuances in customer value that matter and interact with them differently. Carve a path that is more difficult to follow. A path that lets you influence the shape of the market going forward. A path that naturally creates advantages for you to remain the market leader.