A brand is more than a logo or a tagline; it’s a collection of company values, product design, customer experience, and all sorts of intangible elements that other brands try to distill and repackage. An industry-leading brand is much more; it’s a constant source of knowledge and expertise that drives the industry forward as a whole and sets the pulse for innovation and discovery.
Simply put, an industry leader is a company that’s the best: a visionary firm that attracts the best people and best partners and uses them to drive the best profits in its sector. Industry leaders can demand:
These companies often get the best talent at a discount because they’re known as incubators of stellar reputations. A company like Google can get the same talent for less because it’s known as a hotbed of opportunity.
Industry leaders attract better partners at better terms simply because of who they are. Apple is known as a tough company to do business with, but as an industry leader in consumer products, it had its pick of carriers for the iPhone.
When your company has a reputation for excellence and reliability, people are willing to pay a premium. Almost all industry leaders are able to command a premium price because it’s understood that it costs more to build a best-in-class product or service.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? Every entrepreneur would like to earn greater profits with the trifecta of premium talent, partners, and prices. So how do you begin to weave this into your firm?
Industry Leadership Requires Commitment to a Process
In “Good to Great,” Jim Collins wrote, “In each of these dramatic, remarkable good-to-great transformations, we found one thing: there was no miracle moment. Instead, a down-to-earth, pragmatic, committed-to-excellence process (a framework) kept each company, its leaders, and its people on track for the long haul.”
Similarly, positioning your company as an industry leader requires a commitment to consistent, quality messaging that communicates your company’s influence. You can’t be considered an industry leader if you don’t have an authentic basis for this; authority comes from power that’s grounded primarily in three foundations:
3) Third-party validation
Here are some tactics you can use to build that authentic base:
1. Deliver the state of the industry.
Using proprietary data you own, generate a regular report or index for your industry highlighting important insights, developments, and statistics. myList aggregates data from its clients on Facebook to show how companies can gain 25 percent better customer interaction by using its platform. MailChimp constantly produces reports and tools for improving email open rates. My company offers a free scoring tool to help companies rate themselves on where they are as industry leaders. Even if you don’t have the resources to conduct an exhaustive study, regular drips of high-quality information and insights over time can show that you’re a thoughtful company with tremendous commitment and capability.
2. Host an event.
Put on a summit or conference that educates your industry on your topic. Invite your industry peers to attend, and reach out to other thought leaders you would like to form relationships with to be speakers. When SAP or Salesforce does this, we think of their conferences as embedded fixtures in the HR or CRM ecosystems; in reality, these industry-leading events (Sapphire and Dreamforce) started small. Over time, you can replicate similar success within your industry.
3. Create great content internally and externally.
A company blog isn’t enough anymore. If you want to grow your company’s reputation as an industry leader, you should be writing articles for niche publications in your field. Tim and Dave McMullen, brothers who co-founded redpepper, are industry leadership aces. They’ve created one of the top creative marketing brands in the Southeast by contributing to industry publications like The Agency Post, CMO.com, and Adrants.
4. Speak regularly in your industry.
Speaking at conferences helps create, maintain, and build an industry leadership reputation in several ways. Working with your own message helps you gain perspective on what you do and sharpens how your company presents its secret sauce. The material you develop can find further life in other departments and become part of the educational and leadership legacy of your company. And, of course, speaking at a conference showcases your company as an industry expert and gives you the direct opportunity to connect with prospects.
5. Write a book.
When Scott Weiss, CEO of Speakeasy, wanted to connect with the next generation of Fortune 500 executives, he formulated his message into a book called “Dare,” which addressed speaking the truth in all facets of your life. This brilliant call to action got Scott featured in Forbes and Fortune. You don’t have to gain the attention of a major publisher to produce a book these days. You can repurpose your published content or write down your unique methodology to create a digital book on a topic that’s important to your industry.
Not everyone has a billion-dollar company brewing in a spare bedroom, but anyone can position her company as an industry leader through consistent, thoughtful messaging that establishes authority. In today’s cluttered startup landscape, communicating your success requires a long-term commitment to industry leadership activation.
Lisa Calhoun is the CEO of Write2Market, an industry leadership consultancy that changes the world by helping tech and energy companies gain the reputations they deserve. Write2Market will also be hosting The Industry Leadership Summit, an event that helps business leaders infuse industry leadership into their companies. Connect with Lisa on her personal blog or @Lisa_Calhoun.
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