Market leadership is a very desirable position, there’s no question about it. However, new entrants are really faced with an uphill battle in establishing market leadership. First of all, there is often an established category and leader. Second, in general, B2B buyers are a conservative bunch, and their bias is to buy from the established leader. As they say, no one ever got fired for buying from IBM (or Cisco, or Google, or Symantec…). Lastly, historically, getting know as an upstart was a long and very expensive proposition, brand building, PR and people.
However, with the sea change of information availability and independent buyers, has created a new a exciting dynamic for upstart B2B vendors. They can use new techniques of inbound and content marketing to create presence and preference. The barriers to content creation and distribution have fallen dramatically, creating the POSSIBILITY of breaking through. No longer do upstarts need to accept playing second fiddle, but the smart and savvy ones can create market leadership via flashmobs, parades and movements.
Flashmobs – the viral path to market leadership. Many products can build leadership from the bottom up, counting on viral end-user adoption, creating community and evangelistic users. These individuals act as sales reps for your team, building a flashmob of demand, and creating new leaders out of the acceleration of end-user and subsequent enterprise adoption. They switch jobs and refer to peers in other organization, and network effects grow both presence and users. They build product leadership. Examples: SolarWinds, Jive, Splunk.
Parades – As Pogo said, “If you want to be a leader, find a parade and get in front if it”. More so than ever, B2B buyers live in a tumultuous and ever changing world. New challenges and opportunities for both individuals and organizations come at a dizzying pace. At the root of this change are a set of changes that create context for just about everything. Examples of some of the technology meta-context changing items in B2B markets include BigData and SaaS. Other meta-context can be more cultural, like Privacy or more economic like the Increase in Income Inequality, or Environmental like Climate change. Vendors who “hook on” to one or more of these context, and build their go to market Viewpoint around these, become leaders of the parades, and customers and market share follow. These parade leaders grow quickly and gain share as category leaders. Examples include SunPower, Zuora and Cloudera.
Movements – Some contexts are SO big, that they become movements. Movements have many leaders. Like the civil rights movement had leaders as varying as Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, large market movements are made up of many related parades. And the leaders of each of these parades usually vie with each other to consolidate their movements under their leadership. Salesforce.com has parlayed its SaaS/CRM parade leadership to emerge as the leader of the entire sales and marketing automation movement. FireEye, is in the process of trying to parlay their parade leadership in Advanced Network Threat protection into a new movement to re-invent IT security around their brand and technology.
Within these movements, we see the constant bubbling up of new flashmobs, parades and spawning of new movements. Leaders find ways to create flashmobs, get in front of parades, and parlay their successes to build movements. Small vendors can emerge in ways that seem un-convievable out this process. But those who understand it can take advantage of it and thrive in today’s hyper-competitive markets becoming product, category and market leaders.