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Heraclitus, the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, said, “The only thing constant is change.” Born in 535 BC his words have rang true for centuries. Admittedly, the Greek’s were all about saying and doing things that still appear today. From quotes like that of Heraclitus to the Olympic games we still use and watch regularly. And both embrace change as a constant. We use these quotes in new ways today. We watch the Olympic games and cheer for new victors and new world records.

So, when someone asked me what it takes to be a market leader it was an ironical twist that the only way people ever stay at the top is by changing what they do. Yet, at the same time they are always doing the same thing. Below I have outlined a few of the key traits that market leaders that I look up to and aspire to be more like have in common. As you’ll see they are all doing the same things, yet that are all changing regularly!

Staying Ahead of the Curves

From Greek philosophers to English Idioms. Referring to the statistical bell curve, this saying is specifically referring to being ahead of the average or median position. Maybe the saying to Stay Ahead of the Pack is more visual in this instance. Obviously a leader is at the head of the pack and is leading the charge. This is done by being at the forefront of your industry.

I cannot recall anyone who was a “Johnny-Come-Lately” that went to the front of the line without changing the game or revolutionizing the industry. However, I do recall people who have joined the race in the middle only to become the insatiable leader. A classic example of this is the Apple iPhone and Google’s Android OS versus RIM’s Blackberry. Blackberry owned the market. I mean OWNED the market. They held a majority market share of the smartphone industry with more than 10M subscribers at the time that the first iPhone was launched. It grew to 50 million subscribers over the next 2 years. However, with the growth Android and Iphone, Blackberry went from a saturation of those 50 million subscribers to only 12.7 M by 2011.

See that again by looking at RIMs stock prices below. At a max of $230 in 2007 Blackberry looked unstoppable. But by 2008 stock prices dropped to $40.85 and finally falling to only $8.00 today.

how to be a market leader blackberry fail

Purple Cow?

According to Seth Godin, one key to being a market leader is to be purple cow. In his book Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable he says you need to stand out in order to be successful. @GaryVee is a good example of what this looks like. Gary Vaynerchuk is a remarkable social media expert, but he didn’t become one by going to college and following a typical career path. He ran a wine business and started wine shows and became a YouTube star talking about wines and making them the coolest thing you might not have thought about. how to be a purple cow market leaderThen taking the next step in his path he created an agency around social media. OK, so that’s not so crazy different, but if you know Gary then you know that this isn’t what makes him unique. Gary is an intense, brilliant, no non-sense person who will drop the F bomb several times all while making everyone laugh and understand at the same time. His brash comments could be considered offensive, but if you look at his followers they will all agree that there is no question when you are done talking to him what you need to do to kick butt and take names. He is, by far, one of the best public speakers I have seen and partly that is because he is so different than any speaker I have seen. I didn’t get 5 steps to making more money. I didn’t get a theoretical view of social media and impractical application, and I certainly didn’t get lulled to sleep by a monotonous review of facts and figures.

What I did get was an amazingly engaging presentation with facts, figures, statistics, f bombs, real life scenarios, real life how to’s, and about 500 examples of how to do them. I would call that a purple cow!

And because I love Gary Vee so much, I want to give a plug for his books and other resources. Check him out at: (I highly recommend his latest book #AskGaryVee)

Own A Niche…And Then Another

I once had a client looking to build SEO for their website and they asked me what it would take to own the word ‘cashmere’.  I laughed unintentionally while asking how much money they had. Although many businesses want to own the world, the truth is that even if you are a big fish in a big pond, owning an entire category is difficult to say the least.

how to be a market leader

Since I referenced Apple before, let’s use them again. Is Apple a market leader in Mobile Telephony? Is Apple a market leader in personal computers? What about music? Wearable Technology?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, let me ask another...Do you think Apple was a market leader in all of them right out the gate? Or all at the exact same time?  The answer of course is No. Apple started small too. They grew and over time they made waves and then surfed them. I don’t need to remind everyone of the near collapse of Apple in the 1990’s. I also don’t have to remind everyone of the major come back with the invention of the iPod. As stated before, staying ahead of the curve with new innovations lead Apple to become the leader they are now. But they had to work to get there and they had to earn it in every market.

You may have the best product in the world in one area, but that doesn’t mean you will own cashmere. So start small like Apple once was and work towards becoming a leader in your area. And if you have the ability to dominate two or more then go for the moon. Better yet shoot for Jupiter, so if you only make it halfway you still bypassed the moon by a couple hundred million miles!

Overall, the goal of being a market leader really comes down to one thing. People are willing to follow you because you set the trend they want to follow. If you have more people following you than everyone else in your market then you are that market leader. I tell my team almost every day that when you step out the door you are a leader. Whether you are an entry level assistant or a senior VP people will choose to follow or not follow you based on your actions. So if you set the example that other people want to follow, you will be their leader. Get enough people in your line of followers and you will attract more people. But everything you do starts with opening the door. So, even if you don’t think you can be a leader, start by taking a step and then another and you’ll be amazed at the places you can go and who will go with you.