In his epic battle against the Philistine giant, David picked 5 smooth stones, placed them in his shepherd’s bag, and went on to slay Goliath.
In this post, we will be looking at 5 “smooth stones,” 5 powerful ways small businesses and start-ups can compete with the bigger, more established players in their industry.
Size, naturally, has a big advantage in business. Being big means one has more disposable capital, and more resources in the war chest to undercut prices and drown out the competition, for example. Being big means one can enlist more manpower and out-produce and out-play the little ones.
But it doesn’t mean small businesses have no hope of thriving in industries where big players exist.
There are certain strategies one can exploit not only to survive or thrive but maybe even beat the big guns at their own game.
#1 Leverage Technology
Technology is one of the great equalizers. Small businesses are to be quick to exploit the leverage made available by tech. These innovations are happening all around, waiting for smart businesses to employ them to the hilt.
For example, instead of hiring more employees, start-ups can utilize free software and apps that can automate repetitive and easily digitalized tasks such as record-keeping, financials, and analytics.
Instead of building brick-and-mortar stores, small businesses can lean on e-commerce activities and sell their products to millions. They can employ marketing innovations like affiliate marketing to enlarge their sales force and expand their reach.
Online, like on Twitter, for example, there’s very little difference between big, multinational corporations, and entities that are just starting to create a name for themselves. Social media is one venue where the little guys can outperform big-name brands.
You can immediately appreciate how tech and innovations significantly reduce the cost of doing business. By leveraging them, the most unassuming of ventures can negate one of the biggest advantages of multinationals—billions of capital in the balance sheet.
Big companies like Nestlé, McDonald’s, and Procter & Gamble rely on standardization and uniformity. They cater to the “greatest common denominator” and try to serve the most generic needs.
For example, people need soap. So the big multinationals are only too willing to create the barest and cheapest bars that can be mass-produced and that are still acceptable to the public.
(The nature of their operations prevents them from customizing too much because it will impact their costs significantly.)
But while customers are happy to buy their products on the shelves, it doesn’t mean customers have no latent desires for a better, more bespoke product. People are happy to eat McDonald’s burgers, but they will also stand in line for a stall that sells the juiciest burgers in town.
There are profitable spaces for small enterprises and they can easily differentiate their products from the bland, vanilla offerings of multinationals. In fact, they can purposedly play the “anti” hero and position themselves in contrast with established names. The juxtaposition can highlight lines of distinction and push the brand forward.
This differentiation happens at every level.
From the ingredients, production processes, packaging, sales process, philosophies etc.
“Their shampoo bottles come in that form…ours come in this.”
“Their meals come with fries…ours come with this.”
“Their products are made of plastic…ours are made of this.”
Differentiation can kill giants.
Big businesses are severely limited when it comes to “personalization.” Try as they may— like using customers’ first names in calls, letters and marketing materials—but nobody is buying it. People easily see through these are mass-produced, scripted communications aimed at personalisation and making people feel important.
Small players are uniquely suited to beat the big guys in this area. They can truly give personalized service, and real attention and build genuine relationships with customers. They can actually take the time to know customer needs and preferences better.
Their smiles are seen as more genuine…although animated by the same profit motive.
This way, small businesses do not have to compete in price. (The big names can kill budding enterprises by engaging in price wars.)
Personalized services command a premium as they are tailored to the specific customer. In essence, they are one-of-a-kind.
You might think that personalized service will slow the growth. On the contrary, it is one of the surest ways to build loyalty. If you surprise and delight your clients, they will reward you with more repeat and referred business. Before long, you will be turning away customers as you try to scale up.
#4 Leverage Speed
In large organizations, decisions often come out after long, drawn-out committee meetings and only after they are approved by several levels of corporate executives. Everybody is trying to cover their bases, wanting deniability in case something happens.
Bureaucracy creates unnecessary steps in these institutions, so change happens at a glacial pace. This makes them clunky, limping and awkward …in a world that’s constantly in flux.
The small players, on the other hand, don’t have complex organizational structures and policies to contend with. Strategic decisions often fly out the door and are acted on the next minute—making smaller players nimble to the exigencies of the moment.
A small restaurant can quickly change the menu according to the seasons, or whatever produce have been brought from the market that day. A big chain will pay through the noose just to get the specific ingredients.
A big fast food chain could also take weeks even months to make changes or additions to the menu because they had to wait for the “taste team” to create the perfect recipe. They also have to wait for reports and feedback from the different locations that are taking the surveys and doing taste tests. Big companies need to do this because, in their commitment to uniformity, changes in the menu don’t just affect 1 branch. It affects 100 or even a thousand locations.
In business, size can sacrifice speed, and it is this trade-off that smaller competitors can exploit.
Speaking of leveraging tech, a small company can, for example, roll out a new CRM system in a matter of days. This same feat would take big corporations weeks even months, what with all the decisions about which vendors to pick—all that before training more employees, in a more complex CRM system.
Smaller enterprises can out-innovate bigger ones. For example, smaller software companies are more agile and can do more product releases (with more features) than big clunky tech companies that require longer times for product development.
A small fashion brand can pivot faster, with designs that reflect the latest trends, than a large corporation with a warehouse of tens of thousands of yellow-medium-t-shirts waiting to be sold.
Speed is a virtue that comes easier for smaller organizations.
#5 Market Creatively
Established brands are very careful in how they approach the marketing of their products because if anything goes wrong, they have a whole lot to lose. With “cancel culture” hanging over their heads, big brands are forced to the tried-and-tested marketing standards that come out too vanilla. Familiar, but unmemorable.
Smaller names have less to lose and therefore have more opportunity to be inventive and cutting-edge with their messaging. They have more leeway and can be more creative with their campaigns.
Speaking of creativity, in 2006, Blentec, a small blender-maker, had its “Will it blend?” campaign. This featured videos of Blentec’s founder himself, Tom Dickson, trying to blend unusual items like an iPhone or a broomstick. The videos generated both buzz and views and increased sales by 700%.
Guerilla Marketing is a low-cost marketing strategy designed to grab people’s attention and make the product memorable for the audience. These “experiences” are designed to become viral so that they can reach as many people as possible. People talk about your publicity stunt. They share pictures and videos with friends. You get eyeballs pretty quickly.
Guerilla marketing negates the power of big-budgeted corporations and levels the playing field. Now the game becomes who can run the most creative and memorable campaigns.
In the early days, Ben & Jerry’s used Guerilla Marketing.
Only the imagination limits what can be done. Guerilla Marketing can shock, surprise, amaze, or endear. It can tug on the heartstrings.
And regardless of size, companies big and small can have at it.
Green King, a pub and brewing company, feared that small pubs were being bulldozed over by retail giants of the alcohol industry. In a bid to highlight the moments and experiences that take place inside these establishments, they gave pub owners, bartenders and patrons video cameras to shoot what happens inside these rooms. What came out was an intimate look into the most beautiful and most human moments in these unassuming watering holes.
With these 5 strategies—”the five stones in your shepherd’s pouch”—we at Kinetic Innovative Staffing hope that small businesses can thrive and compete against the “Goliaths” of their fields.
Kinetic helps small companies gain a competitive edge by assisting them in hiring remote workers. We have a rich pool of highly-skilled developers, coders, graphic designers, writers, data analysts, customer service reps, virtual assistants, etc., who can hit the ground running and help take your enterprise to the next level.
With properly-vetted remote professionals as employees, our clients not only enjoy the 70% reduction in labour costs, but also the kind of quality output that only seasoned specialists can provide.
If you’re interested in how your company can thrive in today’s globally competitive labour markets, please do not hesitate to contact us.
We’ll show you how.
Kinetic Innovative Staffing has been providing hundreds of companies in the Asia Pacific, North America, the Middle East, and Europe with professionals working remotely from the Philippines since 2013. Get in touch to know more.