What is a Market Disruptor?

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Over the past 10 years, I’ve had the pleasure of working with several companies that are often referred to as “market disruptors.” But what exactly is a market disruptor?

The people who lead these companies are smart and savvy, of course. However, they achieve success through connecting a missing link, solving a problem and/or filling a gap in service.

By being opportunists, these company leaders stake their claim and—like stellar entrepreneurs—trudge through building something from the ground up. They’re simply good at starting companies.

In the short term, these companies (and leaders) thrive and create a tremendous amount of buzz and gain a lot of attention. They make money quickly. They hire quickly. Their company culture is rich and attractive.

Most important, they disrupt the markets they represent.

The crucial difference with any disruptor is being first to market. They salivate at the thought of being first. It’s what drives them to plant the seed and cultivate a brand that excites, invigorates and engenders offering unmatched customer service.

But what about their long term plans?

Without true innovation and leadership, these market disruptors can fade into the background. Because of all the initial ruckus they’ve caused, competitors swoop in and gobble-up the customers that are leftover. The share of voice narrows. Price wars begin. Business plans are revised.

This phenomenon slows success. The company grasps for whatever creative idea is slapped on the table (usually the “flavor of the month”). What made the brand great in the beginning has been stifled by the imposition of unplanned interferences.

The market disruptor is disrupted.

And all too often the leaders of these companies will shout loudly: “We are innovators!” As if that will separate them from the pack. But not so. The company was established by merely noticing a business opportunity. It took advantage while the customers were known as “low-hanging fruit.”

To eradicate the problem, these companies must go back to the beginning. While being consumed with the idea of being first to market, the foundational elements of the business were being ignored. Innovation and differentiation disappeared from the whiteboard with a chaotic sweep of the eraser.

Competitors are a foregone conclusion in business; it’s never a matter of “if” but “when.” However, market disruptors can sometimes unknowingly invite competitors to consume other available pieces of the pie. In the end, it becomes a feeding frenzy for customers, which often creates loss and deviation.

What’s the solution? How do they survive the long haul?

In essence, these companies can’t separate themselves from the pack or employ any meaningful differentiation in an era of marketplace noise.

From the start, these companies should build innovation into their plans. In today’s business world, it’s rather simple to identify a pain point and solve it with a product or service.

However, is the brand and its product(s)/service(s) unique enough (tangible or not) to be remembered decades from now? Not without innovation and true leadership—the two most important ingredients for business longevity.

Disrupting markets is a valiant undertaking, but innovation and leadership stand the test of time.