Are You an Underdog? 3 Ways to Challenge the Top Dog

“If you’re not the lead dog, the view never changes,” goes the old saying. For many companies, that’s certainly true. But that doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself or your brand to follower status.

Whether you’re in second place, third place or last place, you can challenge the top dog. You can be a challenger brand. It’s all about taking on the underdog mindset—making the most of your unique advantages—and recognizing the realities around you.

A great understanding of these three “states” will allow you to step out of your role of follower and start creating a whole new view.

1. State of Market
Challenger-brand thinking begins with a look at where exactly you are on the food chain. Odds are, you’re somewhere in the middle or maybe even near the back. But that doesn’t mean you can’t think and act like a leader. How many times have we seen real innovation come not from huge conglomerates but from the nimble startups chasing them? And that’s the beautiful thing about being the challenger: The big guys will seldom see you coming.

2. State of Mind
If State of Market is all about understanding where you are, the second state is all about determining your level of commitment. Real challenger brands are either the best at something important to a specific group of customers or they are actively striving to become the best at delivering something their customers want. What is it you do better than anyone else? What is it you could do better than anyone else? Focus on what makes you special and commit to being excellent at that.

3. State of Readiness
This is perhaps the most important of the three. Without it, there’s simply motion and no traction. True challenger brands engender a company culture of willingness, openness and energy for embracing new modes of thinking and then acting on them. Admittedly this takes a higher organizational tolerance for calculated risk-taking, but that’s how you beat the big boys. View the world from a different angle, and most of all, be willing and open to new ideas and fresh direction from employees energized for the fight.

You can develop a work environment that nurtures innovation. Check out John C. Maxwell’s tips for creating a culture that’s nimble and adaptable to change.


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