Being at the vanguard of your industry can be an exciting – and scary – place to be and there’s no guarantee your new product or service will capture the imagination of the public. When it works though, you will be in pole position to mould the habits of consumers, positioning you and your business as a leader, or even a visionary.

But this doesn’t mean you can rest on your laurels and even the most innovative and successful businesses are at risk of complacency creeping in. Those leaders who don’t keep a watchful eye on the market, can find themselves falling behind, especially in sectors experiencing fast and sudden growth.

We wanted to share with you our ten commandments of being an established business in a growing market.

  1. Use your experience. As an experienced player, you’ll naturally have a deeper knowledge of the industry and it’s important to communicate this, both to customers and to others in the sector. This not only puts things in perspective but it also gives you a competitive edge.
  1. Take a long term view. When a sector takes off, you’ll suddenly have all manner of new competitors, all of whom have different offerings to the customer. It’s vital to remember that you know the customer inside out and that you’ve seen first-hand how demand has evolved – arguably leaving you better placed to predict the way the industry is headed.
  1. Don’t follow, lead. This is crucial. When the new competitors arrive, some may earn some quick success with new tactics and new visions, and you may be tempted to follow suit. Be careful about this approach and stick to what you do best wherever possible.
  2. Use the surge in popularity to your advantage. A growing industry usually brings with it an influx of customers, benefitting all in the market, new and established. As long as you don’t shy away from competition, your business will be in an excellent position to take advantage of this. It’s also worth remembering that you may well be able to learn something from the fresh perspective of new entrants to the market.
  1. Focus on your USP. Avoid commoditising your product or service and instead focus on what makes you and it special. If your USP is high quality, or sustainable sourcing, keep it that way and make sure the whole world knows it.
  1. Develop on your own terms. Any good business is analytical about what they are selling and will always strive to provide better. At Union Coffee, we’ve always been known for selling the highest quality coffee, but that doesn’t mean we don’t work extremely hard to continue looking to source even better.
  1. Get involved in new trends, but not just for the sake of it. The latest big thing might seem like it’s the future of an industry, but like most things, they rarely last forever. That’s why jumping on the bandwagon can do more harm than good, while being the innovator can put you in pole position.
  1. Extend your community. It’s never been easier to create a sense of community with your customers. Whether that’s through social media, e-newsletters or direct contact via customer events at the office, building on your existing relationship is a great way to retain customers, as well as attracting new ones.
  1. Make the most of your allies. As an established player, you should already have a network of suppliers, manufacturers, producers and other peers. These put you in a position of strength moving forward – make sure you nurture them!
  1. Follow the golden rule. Be unconditionally clear about what you want to achieve, and pursue it relentlessly. Test everything you do against your goals and don’t get distracted!

By Jeremy Torz, Co-founder of Union Hand-Roasted Coffee