David vs. Goliath: How to beat the giants in your market

You know what’s really hard? Being the “little guy.”

And what I mean by “little guy” is being the smaller/newer/outsider competitor in the marketplace.

I learned this lesson the hard way when I left a global brand and went out on my own. Where I once had instant credibility with the famous logo on my business card, I now got blank stares. And silence.

If you are working for a smaller company, you very likely know how this feels. For some of you reading this, the giants can beat on you pretty hard. And make you feel totally ignored.

But, as the story of David and Goliath tells us, you can change the battle. Giants don’t always win.

So, this week, I want to give you three of my favorite ways to beat the giants in your market. In fact, I actually look forward to fighting against giants (cough, cough – McKinsey, Accenture, Deloitte) because these tips consistently work so well.

First, exploit their weaknesses. Every giant has at least one.

You will have to do your homework, but trust me when I say that the gaps exist. The key is to know everything that your customer is expecting. In other words, what will your customers complain about if their expectations don’t get met?

For example, the giants you compete against may be able to offer a lower rice, but their quality suffers. Or perhaps they have pricing models that are complex and difficult to understand. Or maybe their initial speed gets over-run by inefficiencies and require constant restarts.

But it will only matter if THIS customer on THIS deal wants it. You cannot rely on exploiting the same weaknesses over and over again. Giants figure out their weaknesses and address them. And because they are giants, this usually creates a weakness somewhere else (for example, their efficiency just went up – and so did their pricing). Stay on top of their weaknesses and never stop adapting to them.

Second, leverage your successes with the same clients the big companies have.

Big companies love to tout their big customers. Walking through the airport, I see all of their stories plastered on posters and billboards. What they don’t show are the numerous small customers that they have as well.

The chances are you also have some good clients to talk about. The key is to not simply display customer logos. Instead, talk about that customer’s challenge in a way that will resonate with everyone else. In other words, put your emphasis on the problem you helped solve and then drop the big logo as a side thought to reinforce your credibility. Make your message less about the big customer and more about the big problem – and how it got solved.

Third, execute really well.

Of all the things that you can do, this is arguably the most important. Why? Because it anchors EVERYTHING you do as a company.

Innovation will only get you so far. Your ability to execute is what will take you to the next level.

Big companies might have great innovation, killer marketing, and tons of money. But they struggle to execute. If you have ever worked with one of these companies, you know that they often get mired in bureaucracy, politics, and old-fashioned confusion.

However, when you ask your customers what matters most to them, they will likely care most about execution. Go back to thinking of all the things that customers complain about. How often did they say the innovation wasn’t good enough, the marketing was weak, or the supplier had too much money? Those complaints are minuscule compared to the complaints that we often hear:

  • They were late
  • They weren’t worth what we paid
  • They couldn’t address simple issues
  • They didn’t respond to my requests/questions/problems

I fully believe that if you can do this, you will be seen as an equal at the table your customers set for all of the big companies. In fact, you will be invited to that table every time.

So, which of these can you do now? If you were going to make the biggest impact with the least amount of effort, which of these tips would work for you first? Pick that option. And build up to being able to do all three.

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

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