How To Steal Market Share
By Gil Gerretsen
The world of modern marketing is a lot like our days in school. There are the popular kids, the geeks, the jocks, the cheerleaders, and numerous other cliques of various sizes. There are also those who don't quite seem to fit into any particular group and are quietly discouraged because they are outside of the existing power structure.
Then there are the independent kids who blatantly and wisely ignore the hierarchies and concentrate on developing their own space. They don't care about fitting into the cliques that exist around them. They carve out their own space or territory and build their sense of value and purpose there.
In like manner, if you look carefully at the true marketing disruptors of the world, you'll see that they don't think hierarchically either. Although it may be nice to be ranked on some silly list, they really don't care about things like how many social media fans they have. They think territorially. For them, it's a lot more important to control a significant and defensible position in a profitable market segment.
Look around. There are a lot of “wanna-be” and impoverished entrepreneurs who are obsessed with their position on various hierarchical lists. They seem to think that being high on some list will make them more popular and thereby shower them with lots of influence and money. In most instances, that's not what actually happens. They should be focusing on creating a real business, with a real marketing plan, that reaches real customers.
If you want to think territorially, then you must start thinking about market share. Your objective is to carve out a space in the world that is uniquely your own. And it's even better if your specialization and market share mindset gives you substantial control or dominance, thereby making it nearly impossible to dislodge you from your position.
There is a word of warning, however. Don't start fantasizing about discovering some new tiny gold mine that nobody has thought about. While new market opportunities and segments do pop up now and then, it is folly to think you might be the only genius who has spotted any particular one. More likely, it’s an unproductive market segment that nobody else wanted to bother with. There's just not enough business there to build a viable or meaningful enterprise.
The dirty little secret of a territorial and market share mindset is that you may want to enter an arena that is already highly competitive -- because you already know that there's money in that space. People want it. People are looking for it. People will pay good money for it.
Every market segment goes through evolutionary stages. Businesses are always moving in and out as the audience changes. Some businesses are gaining market share and some are losing market share -- or disappearing completely. Why? People are always looking for better ways to get things done. They often get tired of the old approaches. That sense of market boredom opens the door for new players with novel voices and methodologies.
Don’t Threaten The Hierarchy
Here's a surprising tip. As a new player, you want to enter the marketplace without necessarily threatening the existing hierarchy. It's often better to develop a loyal audience by cooperating with existing players rather than engaging in outright hostility and warfare with them. There's a simple reason for that. When they are still bigger or more influential, they are in a better position to crush you early in the game. There's a wise proverb that encourages us all to keep our enemies close. Just don't let them know everything you are doing. Patience is truly a virtue.
When you begin with a market share mindset, the best strategy is to INTENSIFY your market space by doing something better or differently than the existing players. You carve your space by evaluating gaps in the market place and then position yourself in that arena, functionally outside the view or concern of the dominant players. For example, if you’ve ever read about the initial emergence of Walmart, you'll see that a subtle strategy was how they did it. They focused first on small rural communities ignored by the likes of Sears and K-Mart, who saw little threat from them at the time. By the time the threat became obvious, it was too late.
Traditional marketing postulates that you should play it safe. Play the game like the others play it. Do the same kind of marketing they do. Know your place in the hierarchy. The problem with that way of thinking is that your market position and market share will never change. It’s suggested that you don't even bother trying. The ones above you will keep you in your place.
However, if you start thinking about moving your ladder into a TERRITORY where you CAN be number one, then a great future awaits you. The core mind shift you need to make is to think about market territory and market share. Become uniquely relevant to a market slice that can later be leveraged to wider audiences.