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Becoming an Industry Leader: A Step-By-Step Guide

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November 29, 2022Professional Search

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Imagine what it would mean for your business if you were the household name in your industry. If your CEO was celebrated for insights no one else could offer. If customers and competitors alike turned to you for answers.

These are a few of the real-world outcomes that industry-leading companies enjoy.

But how do ordinary businesses become industry leaders? Today’s titans weren’t always regarded as such; some were mere entrepreneurs or startups 10 or 20 years ago. So we know change is possible, but how does it come about?

Today we’re sharing our essential guide for growing your business into a trusted industry leader. Let’s get started by defining our terms.

 

What Is an Industry Leader, Really?

An industry leader is a business or individual that excels beyond most or all peers, reaching acclaim, respect, or even “household name” status within an industry or category. The dominant company or companies within an industry are the industry leaders, whether that dominance is measured by sales, revenue, subscribers, reach, or some other metric. They are the businesses that others look to for guidance and inspiration. 

Quintessential examples include household names such as Apple and Coca-Cola (in the B2C category), Stitch Fix and Netflix as DTC or D2C brands, and industry titans such as IBM, HubSpot, or Amazon Web Services (AWS) in the B2B space.

 

7 Tips for Becoming a Leader in Your Industry

This aspirational talk is helpful, but what if you’re working at a business that isn’t an industry leader? Or perhaps your business is approaching that level but hasn’t quite broken through.

While there are no quick fixes or shortcuts to industry leader status, these seven tips can move your business in the right direction and may even help you become the model that others follow.

1. Recruit and Retain Outstanding Talent

To be the best, you have to employ the best.

This might seem obvious, but the challenge is in the execution. In tight labor markets, simply filling open positions requiring experience or technical skill can seem impossible. Winning the best talent for those roles is another degree of difficulty.

This often starts at the top. Your executives and C-suite must publicly demonstrate their skills and knowledge, establishing themselves as thought leaders within your industry. Successful people want to work for successful businesses, so demonstrating that your top execs are outstanding can be its own selling point.

Compensation and benefits are also a piece of this puzzle, though they aren’t the sole reason job seekers select one company over another. (We’ll cover this in greater detail below.)

2. Promote a Positive Work Culture

A recent Prudential survey finds that as many as one in three Americans who switched jobs during the pandemic took a pay cut. Why would so many make this choice if compensation is such an important part of retention?

Because of a better work culture and work-life balance.

By making your business a place where people love to work (which may involve offering more flexible terms regarding remote work), you’ll attract passionate talent who cares about continuing the culture you’ve built.

3. Dominate Your Local Market

In the context of businesses and organizations, leaders tend to be the ones that dominate whatever space they’re in. Nearly every business has a local market. This may be geographical: a city, a region, a continent; it can also be metaphorical: an industry segment or target demographic.

Whatever “local market” looks like for a business, industry leaders start by dominating there. Growth, notoriety, and influence expand from that initial authority.

4. Look For Ways To Innovate on Your Business Model

Your current business model — the products and services you offer, the problems you solve, and how you take in revenue — would have been impossible 50 years ago. We can say that with confidence because there’s hardly any business in the developed world that doesn’t rely on the internet for some aspect of their business model.

Think about the reverse, too: Those businesses that have been around for 50 years or more didn’t survive by staying the same. Had they stuck with their 1970s-era business model, they would’ve exited the scene long ago. 

The world continues to change. Customer preferences change, technology changes, and so your business model must continue to evolve, too. Innovation is key partly because simply becoming an industry leader isn’t enough. You’ll need to work to stay competitive, and innovation can be the difference-maker. There’s a reason Apple spends billions on R&D (over $25 billion in the last 12 months) and isn’t overly concerned about spending on projects that never materialize or end up getting scaled way back. This industry leader understands the power of innovation and invests accordingly.

5. Create a Robust Knowledge Base

Part of being an industry leader is having something worthwhile to say — and an audience to say it to. You may lack an audience now, but developing something worth listening to is the only way to grow.

You need something your customers can rely on you for (and not be tempted to look to a competitor). And beyond that, consider the value of offering knowledge or content that even your competitors rely on you for. We’re certainly not advocating giving away the store, but consider the power here: When even your competitors are looking to you for knowledge, you’ve become an industry leader.

This robust knowledge base can take numerous forms. A formal knowledge base makes sense in some contexts. Other formats that can contribute include:

  • Regular, valuable blog content
  • Explainers and how-to videos
  • White papers and externally published articles (thought leadership)
  • Webinars and workshops covering topics of interest in your industry
  • Podcasts

The more quality content you create, the more you elevate your status as an authority to be trusted and a primary place to turn for information.

6. Network, Network, Network

Inherent in the concept of leadership is an audience of people (or businesses) you can lead. So to become an industry leader, you need to build that kind of audience.

Here are a few actionable strategies to increase your business’s networking presence:

  • Exhibit at trade shows (including virtual events).
  • Solicit opportunities for your leaders to speak at conferences.
  • Offer workshops at industry events.
  • Invite people via webinars and training sessions.
  • Produce and pitch press releases.

7. Become a Subject Matter Expert or a Thought Leader

We tend to think of subject matter experts (SMEs) and thought leaders as individuals, but organizations can also take on these roles. One place this shows up is the world of SEO, where a few businesses are undisputed SMEs. If you have a question about a term related to how your site operates, you’ll probably find the answer on HubSpot or Moz — and you can be nearly guaranteed the answer is a good one.

Getting your business to a similar status in your industry will take concerted, sustained effort, but it is possible. Content and visibility are key: You must create content that provides real value and conveys authority, and that content needs to be seen. 

 

Key Qualities That Industry Leaders Have in Common

Industry-leading businesses achieve success in varying ways, yet most share these key qualities.

They Strive for Innovation

It’s as simple as this: There are leaders, and there are followers. Often the leaders are the ones pushing and innovating into new products and services as well as new ways of approaching work (or, in the professional services context, new ways of meeting customer needs).

You’ll rarely find a true industry leader that doesn’t focus on some level on building a culture of innovation. Whether it’s tackling sustainability concerns or navigating supply chain complexities, great leaders and great organizations continuously push in new, innovative directions.

They Have Loyal Customer Bases

Why do consumers return year after year to certain brands? Whether it’s Apple or Samsung or Toyota or Ford, the most successful industry leaders build intense loyalty among their customers. Yes, making the best product in a category plays a big part. But the more mature or commoditized an industry becomes, brand loyalty is important as a differentiating force.

Take Apple, for example: When comparing its cloud storage, streaming service (Apple TV+), and smart TV (Apple TV) to the competition, some consumers feel that Apple’s offerings leave a lot to be desired — despite being priced higher overall. Yet because of Apple's deep customer loyalty (and an attractive, sticky ecosystem), the company profits nicely on even these lesser or ancillary products.

They Invest in Top-tier Management and Strategic Planning

Industry-leading companies don’t scrimp on compensation, especially at the management and executive levels. This is because they see the value in attracting and keeping top-tier management, people who are themselves skilled leaders with a “why” behind everything they do.

While non-industry leaders may view headcount as a liability and look to trim the management fat, leading companies take some of their outsized profits and invest that capital back into attracting and keeping the best of the best.

This investment is a key part of strategic planning — something else that industry leaders consistently engage in, often more intensely than the rest of the pack.

They Hire Highly Skilled and Passionate Team Members

This passion for excellence seeps deep into the organizational hierarchy of an industry leader, all the way down to entry-level and specialist levels. Industry leaders offer compensation and benefits that typically exceed the rest because they see the value in hiring and retaining skilled and passionate team members.

This becomes all the more meaningful as the way we work is changing: Organizations that can’t adapt to workers’ desires will find their best talent moving on to an organization that can.

 

Build Your Industry-leading Team With Hunt Club

Becoming an industry leader takes strategy, effort, and tenacity. But most of all, it takes building the right team.

With an industry-leading team, you’ll naturally increase your authority, trustworthiness, and position in your industry — because you’ll have some of the best people around leading the way.

The only problem is finding them — that’s where Hunt Club comes in.

Hunt Club leverages a network of over 20,000 individual SMEs and 7 million candidates, and we use industry-leading screening technology to match right-fit candidates to your needs.

Ready to build your team smarter? Engage with Hunt Club now.

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Kristin Bachman avatarKristin Bachman