Before They Were Market Leaders, Great Brands Did This Really Well

You want to be top of mind. You want to be the preference, not just an option, but so does everyone else.

Photo: Thierry Augustin, Brand Strategist; Source: Courtesy Photo
Photo: Thierry Augustin, Brand Strategist; Source: Courtesy Photo

Before they were market leaders, they were bait for early adopters, media hounds, and maybe even some adventurous celebs. The most riveting phenomena amongst strong brands in recent years are not phenomena at all, meaning that their impact should indeed be expected.

When we talk about companies who challenge conventional design, take functionality to the next level, or disrupt an industry, we’re making a huge fuss over key factor that makes “business” business: it evolves. Why? It evolves because it follows the customer.

Things aren’t changing by happenstance. Customers aren’t being taken by surprise or alerted to a never-before-seen need in market. What happens with many products or services is that familiarity tends to breed dissatisfaction.

As a business owner, you seek to cultivate this sense of intense loyalty. You want to be top of mind. You want to be the preference, not just an option, but so does everyone else.

 

Customer Evolution

What takes a business from floundering alternative to number one (and only) pick is their commitment to growing with their customer. It’s not just about expanding or extending your offerings. It’s about evolving with the landscape they encounter on a day-to-day basis.

Take social media, for instance. A bit over a decade ago, it may have been just for the “obsessed”, the few with their eyes glued to the screen, a pale blue light reflecting in their lenses. Fast forward and it’s a part of daily life, a natural mode of interaction that is sometimes even more accessible and responsive than an email or text message. So, what justifies billion dollar valuations? What even supports an IPO? The evolution of the customer.


“In a fast-paced business landscape, the sure-footed are the quickest to market. They’re not trying to discover product-market fit, they’re pursuing it.”


Things start to make sense (and dollars) when they become applicable, not just on a massive scale, but also with the activated, educated and engaged few. The key is validation. At every point of your business growth, consulting your customer is crucial to gauge the staying power of your brand.

The key metric to measure product-market fit according to Sean Ellis is a play on customer satisfaction: how would they react if your product suddenly disappeared. Measuring the disappointment from your absence shows how valuable your presence actually is.

 

Beyond Product-Market Fit

It’s not enough for the product to exist. It has to also be viable for consumption and valuable for life. It’s again centered on the evolution of the customer, growing needs and changing aspirations, all by listening to your market before you can influence it. Investigation is critical.

It makes all the difference between businesses that find their way and businesses that know their path. The major difference: speed. In a fast-paced business landscape, the sure-footed are the quickest to market. They’re not trying to discover product-market fit, they’re pursuing it.

Instead of tossing ideas at the wall and seeing what sticks, they’re asking questions. Not superficial, “what if” musings but “why [X] matters” and “what [Y] problem does it solve”. There is a natural synergy between supply and demand. Consumers are telling you what they want, you just have to cultivate a good ear, make a couple of calls, or send out a survey or two. Be willing to poke around a bit. You may just find a buried treasure that let’s your business take off.

 

This article has been edited and condensed.

Thierry Augustin is a digital brand strategist based in New York City. He helps growing business strengthen their brand and target their audience to be more effective in the online marketplace. Connect with @taugustin_ on Twitter.

 

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