One of my first experiences with a young and emerging brand came when I freelanced several years ago for an electronic stethoscope company. Although the company’s product was superior in terms of design and ease of use, they were competing in a saturated market with a particularly well-established brand: Littmann (here you can know more about its hegemony). When the firm hired me, I was charged with communicating value while staying ahead of trends in the marketplace.
It felt like a monumental task, especially given I was still at the very beginning of my career. The way I saw it, I would be responsible for the fate of the emerging brand. I would either be tied to a successful start-up or failed start-up. Clearly, no one wants to have a failure on their record, so I set out to design a plan of action. I decided to break the big picture task into large chunks or pieces to help manage the workflow. In attempting to disrupt the crowded marketplace, the five tasks that I felt to be of paramount concern were: creating fresh content about medicine and stethoscopes, defining captivating headlines, producing an awesome website, analyzing and sizing up the competition, and creating speeches with meaningful and engaging content to give to the firm’s leadership. Let’s examine each of these pieces.
- Creating Fresh Content about medicine and stethoscopes: Sounds simple enough right? Check the world wide web, and you’ll quickly find that most things have been recycled two or three times over. So what exactly does fresh content look like? It means getting inside the head of your target audience and thinking about what types of news and items would appeal to them. Blog posts about how the product fits the consumer’s lifestyle are widely appealing. It is important to consider length, tone, and style for each market segment.
- Defining Captivating Headlines: Today we call this “click bait.” However, a captivating headline is more that some provocative title used to get your audience to click your links. It is again about knowing what that audience wants and creating a title that gets to the heart of that matter.
- Producing an Awesome Website: Website design is not for the faint of heart. Many start-ups make the mistake of outsourcing this to their cousin who took a class in college and plays a lot of video games. Perhaps that person is good, but what if they are not? What happens to revenue and customer experience when the links don’t work, or the site crashes? A site that is not user-friendly in both aesthetics and design will not create an atmosphere for your audience to spend time checking out your products. Considerable time should be devoted to how the content is organized. When I designed the website for the stethoscope company, I was mindful of the fact that doctors, nurses, hospitals were all different regarding how they approached purchasing items.
- Analyzing the Competition: Knowing what is going on with your competition is so important. So is keeping abreast of trends in your marketplace. Too many start-ups get wound up in the idea that their product is the best. No one can tell them their baby is ugly. However, researching your competition via internet, phone, and face-to-face exposes the appeal that makes them the market leader or the flaws that make them the market loser. It also gives you the opportunity to truly get a feel for what features make your product stand out. At the time, for us, that was finding out that most products on the market were still heavy and cumbersome. We challenged our design team to create a stethoscope that was more lightweight thus blending into the background of a doctor or nurse working a 12-hour shift.
- Creating Engaging Speeches: This is a big one. Founding members of start-ups are overwhelmingly passionate in belief in their product and company. As the company matures and the brand begins to emerge, all the people involved need to have a full understanding of what they are selling. And they need to be able to communicate this in a precise and succinct manner. The company may have started with stethoscope sales, but the brand is about making an essential health care product the go-to item because of design, ease of use, and value. Teaching leadership and staff how to communicate that to investors, buyers, and the target audience becomes a make or break scenario for future growth.
What I have learned about disruption in the marketplace by start-ups has proved to be invaluable to my career. Truth be told, the term “disruption” gets thrown around wildly the market. Successful start-ups, such as the stethoscope company, emerge because they are energetic and devoted to the brand. The disruption comes from charging ahead with bold campaigns and consumer-centric focus. They are not afraid of micro failures so long as there is hope for success on the horizon. For this company there certainly was. They gained market share fast, 30% in the first six months of the new marketing campaign – bumping out the small brands and eventually going toe-to-toe with the established company.