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How small businesses can compete against larger businesses?

It’s a common scenario when you wade into the world of business – you start small yet will need to have the chops to compete against the large established players in your space.

How small businesses can compete against larger businesses?
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  • Contributed by Alex Neighbour
  • November 22, 2019
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This can be seriously daunting. Large businesses have history, resources, brand recognition and experienced staff. Attempting to compete against this can be a serious challenge.

Being the little guy may seem an unenviable position to be in, but this is simply untrue. With the right approach and a headstrong attitude, you can easily take it to the big dogs. How does the underdog compete among the big brands?

Get specific and comfortable in niches

Get your niche on people.

If you are entering an established market, as most do, you need to have a fairly large bag of moxie to compete. But compete you can!

There is advantage to being the underdog and one of those advantages is the ability to hone in nice and tightly on overlooked niches that the big players don’t need to bother with.

It’s a bit like hoovering up the crumbs while the cake is being eaten – but those crumbs can be an absolute fortune to a small business.

So, what can you address that the others don’t? If you want to compete in retail, have a unique product that nobody else has. If it’s a service you offer, make it specific and ignore the general market.

For example, if you are a physiotherapist, why not specialise and have a shoulder focused practice for sportspeople? There are plenty of generalists but if you have a shoulder injury (and so many of us do) – you want a specialist. This is a great advantage that makes less sense to large businesses.

What makes you so special?

So, what’s your story?

  • Do you have a unique proposition?
  • Are you really cheap?
  • Are you a luxury service?
  • What makes you a unique and approachable business?

You need to spend some concerted effort and time on creating a story around yourself and your business. People often connect better with accessible and knowable people and entities – be the corner store not the department store, so to speak.

If you spend time crafting a brand story – be it personal branding or business branding – you will have a much stronger chance of snaring interest over a faceless larger business.

Make sure your marketing efforts, social media pages, website and communications are built around telling potential consumers about your brand proposition, your reason to buy.

Get personal like nobody else can

A large business can often fall prey to the trap of seeming to be a faceless monolith. This often breeds contempt and builds a sense that you are another face in the crowd to them. Because you probably are.

This creates an opportunity for the right small business to really shine with personalised service. Personalised service in the true sense of the word can only be done personally – something a large company simply cannot replicate.

This is a chance to push your personal brand – becoming a face rather than a logo brings enormous benefit and trust from your clients.

Jack be nimble, Jack be quick

Jack was agile enough to jump over the candle stick. A small business can be like Jack – quick to adopt new technology or practices, quick to alter services, quick to bring new products to market and quick to respond to consumers and market trends.

This kind of agility is only possessed by small operations. No matter how savvy a large business, these changes will grind into effect. Meanwhile, a smaller operation with far more adaptability can blink them into existence. 

This ability to change gears very quickly and adjust your operations is one of the truly standout advantages of small businesses.

More importantly, this is one advantage that is virtually impossible for a larger company to match, so take full advantage of this when you can.

In this way you will snag customers by being first to the post, grabbing the eager first comers while the Goliath catches up.

Know your enemy

Comprising of a number of concepts and activities, the idea of analysing and studying your large competitor for weaknesses is a very useful one. If you want to compete with them, you need to know them intimately.

The first step is to study your larger competition. Although large companies can be intimidating competitors, they will possess chinks in their armour – be sure of that.  

Analysing your competitor carefully will assist you in identifying and subsequently attacking these weaknesses. 

Not only does this study reveal weaknesses you should pursue but also their clear strengths – places you should not compete.

There are a variety of methods and considerations when undertaking a competitive analysis. Consider discovering the answers to the following questions:

  • What are their prices, present and historical, for all services and products?
  • What is their marketing strategy? Are they AdWord heavy or Instagram reliant?
  • What is their competitive advantage?
  • What do they lack?

By knowing your enemy, you will see soft spots and armoured plates – be savvy and lay plans to strike at the soft spots.

Push your ‘cool’

Big brands often take market share by virtue of being big, but in the hipster age we have found that small, independent companies come with a cache of cool.

This can be a true godsend to a smaller company – big brands are popular yet seldom cool. 

It’s trendy to be into small batch breweries, small run clothing lines or exclusive services offered by a mere cool few. It may sound a little trite, but impressions are everything – the ability to be on trend means real hard cash. 

Your aim should be ‘boutique’. Boutique is exclusive, and certainly desirable – it always has been. So, if you can combine excellent services, a great personal branding, excusive offerings and limited availability – you have all the ingredients of a very successful small business entirely capable of taking on a larger entity. 

Alex Neighbour, senior copywriter and content manager, Reckon

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