It’s a Marathon, not a Sprint: Winning the Race for Market Leadership

August 12, 2019 by Leora Katz, Vice President

You’ve taken a cutting-edge idea and turned it into an innovative new startup—and now you’re ready to scale up as your company embarks on the next phase of its growth. To reach new heights of success, you’ll need strategies for fundraising, product development, differentiation, and customer acquisition. Each of these is a key ingredient for future growth—but without an effective, long-term strategy for building public awareness of your product or service, none of this will prove sufficient.

Simply put, your company can’t thrive in the competitive marketplace unless you’re reaching target audiences. And for your business to resonate with those audiences, building a compelling, consistent message, with an eye toward the long run, is paramount. 

Here are five principles to guide your company in crafting a narrative that drives results.

Be unified.

A company needs to have a single voice. A coherent, unified message is vital to aligning stakeholders on your company’s core identity, its value proposition, and how its ambassadors—from senior leadership to rank-and-file employees to outside validators—should pitch a product or service to key audiences.

Of course, answering these questions requires a company to know who they are, and who, precisely, its target audiences should be. Honing your answers to these questions—and developing a communications strategy designed to support your business’s growth objectives—requires public relations professionals with both messaging savvy and a keen understanding of the market landscape. 

Mind your company’s look and feel.

The Golden Arches, the Nike swoosh, and the Starbucks Siren are virtually universally recognized symbols of some of the world’s leading companies. These images convey ideas as much as they call to mind the specific offerings of the respective companies. But while images, color schemes, and graphics are all essential components of a business’s look and feel, words are no less important.

The attitude portrayed in the language a company uses helps to create a business’s “feel”—and, in so doing, plays a critical role in shaping how audiences engage with your company. 

Don’t be boring.

If a company has something interesting to say, people will want to listen. Thought-provoking content—whether it’s a sleek website, a timely press pitch, or an op-ed by a senior executive—allows a company to build its expertise and market leadership in a tone that’s on-brand.

Think about why you started your company in the first place. Chances are, you identified a gap between what your target audience wants and what the market already had on offer—or perhaps you’ve identified a need your audience doesn’t yet even realize that it has. Translating your big idea into a message with staying power isn’t easy—but can ultimately determine the success or failure of your enterprise.

Challenge the audience.

To be sure, standing out in a world that often seems cacophonous and diffuse can be a challenge.

But great disruptors rarely succeed without taking on preconceived notions or creating some controversy. By making a point, a company distinguishes itself in the landscape, starts meaningful conversations, and generates greater interest in its offerings.

However, this principle comes with a few caveats: You should only stir the pot if there’s a way to do so that’s consistent with your company’s core identity and strategic objectives. And it’s important to go about contrarian or controversial communications strategies in a smart way: A 2012 study published by the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania found that “controversy increases likelihood of discussion at low levels, but beyond a moderate level of controversy, additional controversy actually decreases likelihood of discussion.” The tricky balancing act: Pushing people outside of their comfort zones enough so that they think about your business and its space in new and interesting ways, but not so far that they’d rather move on to a less uncomfortable topic.

Let someone else say it. 

Third-party endorsements—either by ecosystem influencers or through case studies—help lend prized legitimacy to a company. 

The right public relations advisers will guide your company in identifying the appropriate validators and the most opportune moments to deploy them and will know how to package success stories to create impactful narratives that journalists, investors, and consumers will find noteworthy.

With strategy comes success. Generating buzz for your company is no different than generating revenue or acquiring new customers. It needs to be well-thought-out and guided by a plan that reflects your business’ identity, mission, and goals. That requires discipline, dedication, and persistence in messaging—and while business recognition is no 100-meter dash, a steady, committed approach can power your company to success in the entrepreneurial marathon.

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