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On Marketing: How to lead your industry

by JOSH GORDON Published: October 19, 2016 12:33 PM

You love your team. You love your products. Your customers have great things to say about you.
But, it’s been almost a decade since the company has experienced meaningful growth.
What gives?
For this ailment, a prescription of industry leadership is usually best. But, it’s hard to just start “leading the industry” tomorrow. You can see what you want to be, but the steps to transforming into an industry leader are uncertain and ambiguous.
Industry leadership has major advantages. Do you think “Kleenex” has enjoyed the sales that stem from its industry leader status? I used to do work with Sea Doo, and during the market research phase of a project we asked survey respondents which personal watercraft they liked most. The majority of folks we spoke to followed up by asking, “What do you mean by personal watercraft… you mean which type of Jet Ski do I like?”
Yup, that’s what we meant.
Being an industry standard drives sales, fame, and top-of-mind-awareness like no ad campaign can.
It’s a long and worthwhile road to industry leadership. And like all great journeys it begins with a single step.
The normal stuff is required… the marketing and communications plan, a solid positioning statement, a brand strategy, a plan for building your audience, etc.
Once all of that is in place (check out some past columns for ideas and tips on building great plans), it’s time to start speaking to your audience in meaningful ways.
It is also time to start aggravating some people in your target audience.
Normally when I give this advice I get a few crazy looks. But, the only way to earn expertise — and the respect and leadership that comes with it — is to take a stance on controversial issues, and then back it up.
Now, “aggravate” does not mean antagonize or upset. Simply, it means have an opinion on a controversial or unclear issue in your industry.
One of my favorite examples is Chief Optimist magazine. Xerox made a magazine targeted specifically at senior decision makers at big companies. The goal is simple — deliver useful information that makes murky and complicated issues leaders deal with very clear to understand. The magazine delivers value to the reader, and positions Xerox as a company that leads its industry.
(By the way, Xerox attributes $1.3B in revenue to activities generated by this magazine and its digital footprint.)
Your business or products cannot be all things to all people. Pleasing everyone is not what leaders do. Leaders provide a vision, and they make everyone around them (e.g. your customers) better than they can be on their own.
Ultimately, the goal from a marketing perspective is to edify your audience by making them better at what they do. They must feel smarter for engaging with your company, either as a customer or a consumer of information.
Industry leadership is there for the taking. Are you ready to take the first step?
Josh Gordon is an award-winning marketing communications professional and President of Full Spectrum Marketing, a full-service advertising agency with digital roots based in Kent, Ohio and Wooster, Ohio. You can reach Josh at jgordon@fullspectrummarketing.com.


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