How to Get Out of Second Place and Become the Market Leader

How to Get Out of Second Place and Become the Market Leader

There’s an old adage that no one remembers who came in second place. It’s the very nature of competition. No one strives to be second-best in their market, right?

If you’re not the market leader – maybe you are in second place (or even third or fourth), how do you move up? And if you’re already in first place, how do you stay there?

The answer is to set yourself apart from the competition. Own a differentiator that’s uniquely you, relevant to your customers and focused on why you do what you do, rather than what you do or any specific product.

But First, an Old Story

Few companies in history have made more of their second-place status than car rental giant Avis. They famously owned the position, declaring for the first time in 1962 (and continuing for 50 years), “We’re #2, We Try Harder.”

It’s a beyond-famous campaign for its simple brilliance. Six words that position the market leaders as complacent hacks and Avis as the underdogs-who-everyone-should-love. It gave Avis employees something to rally around, and it gave consumers something to love. Better service, better cars, people who are working harder. Advantages that matter. All in six words.

Owning a position – especially one people can relate to – adds value and makes you more competitive. For Avis, it instantly made them more likable, believable and relatable. And while the campaign never turned Avis into the ultimate market leader, it did help the company reverse losses and turn a profit.

So how do you find your unique position? Of course we have some ideas.

Be Relevant

The first thing to do is to connect with your customers, and the best thing you can do is deliver something they need. Information that will make their jobs easier. Information – or even products – that will improve their lives.

In short, be helpful and supportive. Show customers you understand their challenges, and that you’re there to solve them.

Avis did this brilliantly, using the “We try harder” positioning to show travelers of all stripes how they’d solve the very real pain points of renting cars.

Again, being relevant is about understanding your customers’ needs, observing the competition – and then finding an unexpected way to fulfill those needs.

Be Different

Simply stated, you can’t change your position in the market by doing what everyone else is doing. Copying product features and bullet-point-benefits will only get you so far. The idea here is to find a new, lasting way to stand out from the competition.

In his now-famous and now nearly-cliche talk, Simon Sinek said (several times), “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” And it’s true, whether you’re renting cars, selling software-as-a-service, or introducing your law or accounting firm to the world.

Sure, product features are important, but they don’t close the deal. Anyone can make a similar product and copy those features. What closes the deal is showing that you understand your customers better than anyone. That you’re not here just to sell a product, you’re here to do something more. That you’ve created something especially for them.

Be Real

Authenticity is all the rage these days, and there’s a reason. Marketing, and by extension, products, feel more personal than ever. Even business-to-business marketing is making the transition. It’s a level of honesty that can be scary…but it can also pay off in big ways.

Especially for its time, “We’re #2” was one of the boldest, most honest marketing claims ever. But the payoff was equally real. For customers, it raised the question: who wouldn’t want someone who was going to work harder for them? Who wouldn’t want better service, cleaner cars and more perks?

Being honest and true can go a long way to earning customer trust – the first step toward building a long, even profitable relationship.

It’s Time to Be Remembered

Ready to move up in the market? Need to solidify your spot as the leader? It’s time to stake your claim. So own something. Something that’s relevant to your customers, that sets you apart from the competition, and true to who you are.

WATCH: Rich shares his advice on how to get out of second place and become the market leader. Watch below or on YouTube:


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Rich Heend

Rich Heend

Rich Heend is a senior copywriter for Atomicdust, helping us develop engaging websites, print materials and, as you can see, the occasional blog post. Basically, he reads and rights writes for us. (Oh, and he edits too.)

More posts by Rich Heend