August 11, 2020

The Anatomy of Category — Using USP to Create New Markets

Stand out from the crowd. It sounds so simple, but a majority of businesses fail to do that. If you don’t stand out from the crowd, you won’t be visible to consumers.

What many people don’t understand is that trying to stand out in a crowded market is not enough; instead, you have to own the market. Even more: You have to BE the market.

Swimming Against the Stream Vs. Being the Stream

Most businesses tailor their marketing strategy around convincing people why they should choose them over their competitors.

Following this approach, however, puts you at a disadvantage from the get-go. You’re fighting against the flow; you’re a fish swimming upstream. In a saturated market, why should anyone listen to you? Why would anyone notice you in the first place and give you the time and attention you need to convince them to choose you? Clearly, you will have a long road ahead if you choose this path.

The key to success is not to try to show how you are better than your competitors but to position yourself so that there are no competitors (viable competitors, at least). You provide something that nobody else does, across all aspects of your business: Feature availability, quality service, customer care, excellent pricing. You don’t have to prove that you are a better option; there are no other options.

Let’s take this a step further, however. You’re not just the only option in the market, you ARE the market. To achieve that, you must CREATE the market.

Creating and Owning Your Category

Creating a category sounds ambitious, but with a little creativity and by understanding your target audience, it can be done. It requires confidence in yourself and your business, and you need to be sensitive to market fluctuations and needs.

The goal is to position yourself as the “Facebook of X” or the “Uber of X.” Think of brands that have been so successful at creating their category that their brand names have been turned into verbs.

When someone searches for something online, they say, “I’m Googling it.” You probably never heard someone say, “I’m Binging it” or “I’m Yahooing it.” When someone gets an Uber, they might say something like, “I’ll Uber it home.” They might say that even when they are using an alternative ridesharing service or search engine.

Narrowing Down Your Audience

Creating a category or market will necessitate narrowing down your target audience. Yes, this means that you won’t be reaching out to as many people as before. However, as Paul Graham says, “It’s better to be loved by 100 people than be liked by 1,000,000.” Or, as Brian Chesky, the founder of Airbnb puts it, “If 100 people love your product, that’s enough.”

As an aside, Airbnb is the perfect example of a business that created its own market. However, you can create your own category regardless of what your business model is — just find that category of people who are looking for exactly what you provide and don’t have any other reliable options.

Go Beyond Problem Solving

According to Christopher Lochhead, category leaders “educate the market to see the world the way they do.” Lochhead is the co-author of Play Bigger – How Pirates, Dreamers, and Innovators Create and Dominate Markets, a breakthrough book on category creation.

Category leaders understand that nobody buys a product unless it solves a problem. However, they also know that to be truly innovative, they can’t just be like other entrepreneurs seeking to create solutions to problems that others have tried to solve already. Instead, they anticipate problems; they spot holes in the market and provide solutions to problems that people don’t even realize they struggle with because nobody ever addressed them.

Again, Uber is a great example. Cabs always existed, but a ridesharing app didn’t. People just didn’t see the world in such a way that they could order a ride within minutes on an app; Uber was so successful in educating the market to see the world the way they do that the word Uber has become a verb.

Recognizing Your Competition

A category leader isn’t necessarily someone who doesn’t have any competition. The presence of competition can actually legitimize the existence of the category and the fact that you are a category leader. Sure, there are alternatives to Amazon, but nothing comes close to providing everything that they do: Prime two-day shipping, Prime Wardrobe, Prime Music, Prime Videos, Audible audiobooks, Amazon Web Services, and much more.

The 5 Steps of Creating Your Category and Leading It With Your USP

Let’s go through the five steps you need to create your category and dominate it.

1. Define Your Target Audience

Who will you be targeting? What kinds of businesses will you be serving? It’s crucial to narrow down your target audience because targeting too broad of an audience means you won’t be able to effectively create your category where you are the leader.

2. Identify the Problem and Solve It

Next, identify the problem your target audience is facing. What is lacking? What do they need that is missing? Find that void and fill it; find that hole and become the missing part.

3. Have a Mission

There needs to be a reason why you are doing what you are doing. To rule as a category king, your mission must be to improve lives in one way or another. Facebook’s mission statement is to “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” What is your mission statement?

4. Map Out Your Category

You are creating the category, so you have the power to map it out.

Who are your customers? Are there other players in the category? How do consumers interact with businesses in the category? How do you position yourself as the category leader? How do you stick your foot in the door? If customers are complacent with the way things are, how do you show them to view the world the way you do and recognize the need to fill the void or even be aware of the void in the first place?

5. Make Your USP Shine Through

Above all, your USP needs to shine through. This way, you’ll always lead your market and be the category king.

At Proposo, we help businesses craft their brand story. Talk to us today if you’d like to discuss improving your market position, sales and brand value.

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Dan is an expert in global technology brand marketing and sales. He has advised IBM, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Samsung and Cisco on brand position, go-to-market strategy and sales performance. He has launched businesses in Fintech, Cleantech, SaaS and marketing platforms. Dan is an award-winning tech journalist who wrote for the Financial Times and Economist Group.

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