In business as in life, the playing field is rarely level. Bigger brands often have more visibility, a larger customer base and a more robust budget than less-established brands. Without these advantages, how do smaller building product brands gain traction and increase their market share?

Well, for starters, they need to “size up” the competition, develop a well-considered game plan – and perhaps, most important – be willing to take risks to elevate their position in the market .

With Super Bowl LIV next week, it’s the perfect time to look at what it takes for a team (or your brand) to consistently achieve business success and rise to the top.

Be ready to move.
The 49ers would not be going to Super Bowl LIV without the agility of running back Raheem Mostert. While traditional game plans often position the quarterback’s passing ability as the star of the game, San Francisco made Mostert centerstage – and it paid off. Adaptability and agility are key to getting a “leg up” in any competitive situation. From a scrimmage to the playoffs. Smart building product brands regularly assess the current landscape and make adjustments as needed. They don’t simply do a temperature check at the end of the year. Instead, they evaluate and refine their strategy as they go… fine tuning it to take advantage of opportunities and subtle shifts in the space. They anticipate the “openings”. And seize them to gain better field position.

Sweat it out.
It’s easy to be an armchair quarterback… just think of how many times you’ve yelled at the TV for the team to change the game plan. But NFL coaches know it’s important to stick to a strategy — even when on occasion — the plan seems imperfect.  While flexibility matters, there’s a lot to be said for plain old hard work and countering the competition with a differentiated playbook. Brands that are able to stay the course long-term, approach their business strategies and goals with dogged determination and discipline. They plan their work. And work their plan. Practice, and then…well… practice some more.

Develop the team.
A team will always be more effective than an individual. While Tom Brady remains, arguably, one of the best active quarterbacks in the league —  the Pats were nevertheless, eliminated from the playoffs. Brady couldn’t do it by himself. Cross training is vital. Remember Michael Vick? While he had a solid passing rating, during his career he rushed for over 6,000 yards — averaging 7 yards per carry — making him a dual-threat to his opponents.  Successful brands nurture a range of talent at all levels of the organization… from sales reps to customer service staff. Employees move on for a number of reasons, so it’s important to cross-train associates on various roles in your business. Not only does this help increase responsiveness, in the case of an unanticipated employee departure… but it also helps to build morale, by providing more growth opportunities for team members.

Avoid too much time on the sidelines.
When a team wins their division — they celebrate for a short time — then practice ramps up again in earnest, for the playoffs. Successful brands don’t take any win – no matter how large or small – for granted. Complacency and resting on laurels simply doesn’t have a place in their playbook. While a challenger brand may step back on occasion to check the pulse of the market… they don’t slow down. Why? Because they know next Sunday’s competitor will be nipping at their heels.

Break the mold.
Taking a risk can pay off. Lookback to the Rams vs. Saints game in January 2019. Had either team been bold enough to go for a two-point conversion… they would have won. Instead, the game deadlocked in tie, and went into overtime. To separate yourselves from the pack, brands must often take (calculated) risks and challenge the status quo. Rather than go for the extra point after you next touchdown… rally your sales & marketing teams towards a two-point conversion, pushing a division or brand across the goal line – and into exciting new territory.

Want some more tips for playing – and winning – the long game? Download K&A’s white paper, “How to Win as a Challenger Brand.”