So, You Want to Be a Market Leader?

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Go ahead, ask Ken Rutsky the question. What does it take to drive a market? To be a leader? And, in today’s highly competitive and ever-shifting landscape, just how long can you stay on top?

To be fair, these are tough questions. And Rutsky knows it. The easy answer is that everyone wants to be a market leader. But, as Rutsky earnestly proclaims, some companies lead while others lag. The leaders. They focus on winning by articulating and connecting their unique value to their customers’ world and context, while the others focus their communication on features, functions and benefits.

In his book, “Launching to Leading: How B2B Market Leaders Create Flashmobs, Marshal Parades, And Ignite Movements (,” Rutsky lays out the game plan for getting to the top (more and better leads, eliminating the quantity vs. quality trade-off, and improving key marketing and sales metrics).

For the past 20-plus years, the B2B marketing thought leader ( has worked in and around and with the sales, marketing and C-Suite communities. Today, his clients include the like of FireEye, Nimsoft, and others.

Why is it important for brands to not employ a “follow the leader” strategy?

Because they never catch up. It is one thing to neutralize a leader’s advantages, but to break through we must differentiate, and the greatest differentiation comes by having a unique viewpoint that tilts the market in our favor.

What are the barometers for creating the perfect niche?

The perfect niche is big enough to be meaningful to your business goals, and small enough to provide focus in your sales and marketing efforts. Positioning and messaging is as much about whom you don’t serve and what you don’t claim, as much as whom you do serve and what you do claim. Leaders create flashmobs of rabid customers, while at the same time have a vision on leading a big market parade and movement.

Why is it important to view the marketplace from your customers’ perspective?

Markets are conversations. The topic of the conversation is the exchange of value. Value, as in beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. The context of this market conversation is the customer’s world and perspective not the seller’s. The seller is an interloper into the customer’s world. Enter with the perspective of the buyer and frame your value in that perspective. If you do this well, you earn the right to help shape the market and lead.

How (and why) do brands miss the boat on this?

Brands that overvalue their value miss the boat. They are too focused on the great things they deliver, and less focused on the customer’s context. Value without context is not valuable to the buyer. Brands must start and end their value conversations in the customer’s world, not theirs.

Define an example of a brand that hit the mark on this.

Zuora, a provider of subscription billing SaaS solutions, focuses their entire value conversation on “The Subscription Economy.” They relate to, influence and shape the market for billing platforms. They have a point of view; they connect their value to the customer’s world, and paint a vision of success.

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Connect Magazine, January/February 2017.

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