The business who is broadly considered to be the most dominant, either by pure market share or brand recognition in your industry, is the market leader.

Every business operator who is wanting to stay relevant must be aiming to become the market leader.

However. this isn’t something that happens overnight.

If you want to lead your market, then there are a number of traits and abilities you must demonstrate to make this goal achievable.

Brand positioning and differentiation are two of the most important elements to keep in mind when building a business with the intent of becoming a market leader.

Differentiating your company refers to your ability to separate your business and your product or service from that of your competitors. Positioning your business in your industry is the key to building and maintaining a competitive advantage.

Maintaining and improving your competitive advantage in your market enables your business to survive, and even thrive, against your competition over long periods of time.

It’s important to understand the differences between businesses that lead by example in your industry, versus the ones that only follow:

Leader: An organisation or company that is the most advanced or successful in a particular area.

Follower: A person who moves or travels behind someone or something.

The five Cs that define industry leaders

When we think of some of the world’s most inspiring industry leaders like Apple, Google, Zappos, Uber, AirBnB, Coca-Cola, there are certain common traits these companies exhibit. We’ve distilled them down to five Cs – five traits that you should aim to dominate in your industry so you can be the market leader.

Cause – leadership without vision is like trying to straighten deck chairs on the Titanic. Being able to consistently stay true to your own unique vision of the world through every interaction with your customers, your team and your marketplace is extremely important in being a market leader, and not a follower.

Apple has never compromised on their vision of simple, beautiful technology that doesn’t need to be complex or difficult to understand. During the late 90s when every other computer manufacturer was introducing more and more models, variants and widgets to their computer line, Apple removed more and more computer models away from their own line.

Being able to stay true to the company’s original mission and vision not only saved the company from going bankrupt, it reset the course for the company to reclaim its status of market leadership in the computing industry.

Confidence – Being able to focus on your business’s most important higher goals and not getting caught up chasing after other companies to keep up. By keeping calm in times of crisis and remaining confident in your cause, you will inspire those around you to continue pushing forward in becoming a true market leader.

Since launching, Uber has come under constant attack from the transportation industry and the government with continual threats of lawsuits and fines. A company with lesser meddle or confidence could have easily folded under this constant public pressure, however Uber continues to remain incredibly confident towards their cause in revolutionising the transport industry.

Uber Expansion on a map

Creativity – It is important to think outside the box. If other companies are “zigging”, it is often better to be “zagging”. You may be forced to make quick decisions and being creative can often help.

The product, Coca-Cola, has remained relatively unchanged for over one hundred years. The reason why Coca-Cola has remained the market leader in the beverages space for so long is that they continue to creatively innovate on how they market the product to generations and generations of individuals.

This creative innovation is clear in the company’s long history of successful television advertising. Some of their best ads can be viewed below:

Being able to creatively market and engage with generations of individuals is why Coca-Cola has remained a relevant brand for over a century.

Content – How active are you in educating your market? Companies that are leading the field in education of their particular industries are thought leaders. The platform in which market leading companies use to educate their audience is often vast and never singular.

Google produces incredibly detailed and useful market research reports (often spending lots of money doing so) and makes them free to the public as part of their Google Insights network. These insights are extrapolated and brought into context on how businesses can succeed through the Google Search platform as part of international Google Partners live events, which again, are completely free to the public.

By continuing to provide exorbitant amounts of valuable content for free to their audience, Google continues to maintain its market leading position as the undisputed king of online search platforms.

Google Partners masterclass

Care – finally but certainly not the least, how well do you care for your customers and care for your industry? As companies grow and expand, one of the most noticeable areas to falter is their ability to care and service their own customers.

In our experience, providing great customer service and care boils down to having great processes as the foundational step, followed by great people that have great confidence in the company’s cause.

Zappos is constantly referenced as the industry leader in customer service. In fact, the company has set the record for the longest customer service call at almost 10 hours a few years ago. The company’s uncompromising attitude towards going well and truly beyond their competitors to out service their customers makes the company a market leader in the online commerce space.

Workers sit at their desks in the couture department at the offices of internet retailer Inc.
Workers sit at their desks in the couture department at the offices of internet retailer Inc.

How to tell if you are a leader in your industry

Some of us who are reading this post may consider themselves to be a leader in their own respective industries. It is often difficult to gauge from within a business as to what companies are considered to be industry leaders in the minds of the market.

Seeking approval with thumbs up

Seeking Approval – Leaders don’t need anyone telling them if what they are doing is right or wrong. A leader is generally comfortable in their own skin, and proud of what they are doing in their industry. A follower needs somebody to show or tell them what to do.

They can see whether or not the leader is doing it right and replicate this. Although a leader might not always know the right path right away, they are confident in their actions and are able to evolve and iterate based on the actions they take.

Inspire others quote by John Quincy Adams

Inspiring Others – A leader must be able to gain the respect and confidence of other people. They are able to motivate and inspire others to take action and accomplish things a specific way. A follower is only concerned with getting a task completed or catching up to a leader.

Being original Quote by Coco Chanel

Being Original – A leader makes the first move by deciding what has to be done, no matter how new or unpredictable a situation might be. Leading businesses ensure the show goes on by giving cues to the others, setting the stage and directing each scene.

They provide direction and advice to others needing support and how to function in certain situations.

Break through walls to reach your goal
A arrow breaks through walls in a maze to reach a goal

Changing Things – Leaders are often excited about taking control of a situation and they typically come up with new ideas, offer innovative solutions and come up with effective courses of action.

Followers often use the leader’s solutions to affect the change and they wait for the leaders directions.

Who do you consider to be a leader in their own industry? Is there a company that you admire who you think should be worth mentioning?

Update 2020: It is way down the track that I can reveal the reason for this blog post. It is a little different to our usual web related content.

Its funny how people are inspired to do things. This article was inspired about a decade ago by a well known competitor in our Brisbane area. We picked up on a number of areas on his website that were direct copies of our website at the time.

It was flattering and a boost to our egos that this older, more established agency had copied us. We called him out on it and he was embarrassed and apologised. Fortunately he is a friend of our agency and we weren’t mad. We shared some beers and all was good.

In the Brisbane Web Design industry, there are a lot of followers and only a small handful of true leaders. It is very important in business and on the web to forge your own path and thats what we will continue to do.

It certainly wont be the last time someone copies us. It just means we have to continue to innovate and do things before the competition can catch up.

Let me know, are you a market leader in your industry? What did you do to get there and what are you doing to stay there?