3 Ways David (Small Business Owners) Can Outmaneuver Goliath (Big Brands)

3 Ways David (Small Business Owners) Can Outmaneuver Goliath (Big Brands)So, you are a hustling small business owner. Growing your business, marketing, perhaps dealing with employees and all of that jazz.

Things are humming along, but then you notice you are in a David vs. Goliath situation. Bigger brands might be undercutting you. Or stealing your web traffic. Or writing angry notes on your car window (well…maybe not that).

The bigger company is outspending you and has 500 more employees than you do.

How do you become David and outmaneuver Goliath?

The short answer:   By being smarter, faster and cheaper.

1.) Outcreative-ing As Opposed To Outspending

Taking on Goliath by trying to buy more ads then him will never work. So what can you do instead? Where is the playing field leveled or give you the hustling entrepreneur the advantage?

The answer: Creating compelling content.

And we are not talking about banner ads here. Your channel online to connect with customers and clients. Whether it be an online TV show, a blog bringing the most interesting articles in your niche or perhaps a Podcast, you have the opportunity to out-create.

The key to compelling content? Making it about your niche and not you. You might not be able to out buy, but you can out-educate, out-inspire and/or out-entertain Goliath.

Who is doing this? 37 Signals. In the words of 37 Signals’ David Heinemeier Hansson: “You can’t outspend, but you can out-educate.”

2.)  Be First:

Goliath has a lot of things to worry about. Sometimes it leads them to worry about the wrong things like how many lawyers to hire for the next lawsuit or whether every other Friday should be short shorts day at the office. That is a good thing.

Are you monitoring your niche online and not just your name and your company’s name? More importantly, if something pops up that is relevant, do you move in like Rambo and offer a thoughtful comment (I guess that isn’t exactly like Rambo…because your goal isn’t to kill people)?

Let’s pretend you are in the wedding flower business. you could have a Google Alert (or whatever Alert you want) setup for every time someone mentions “wedding flowers” or “wedding flower information” or “wedding flower questions” on the web. And then of course, you can leave an insightful comment on the blog or forum.

Who does this well? Dan Schawbel from Personal Branding Blog. Anytime something is mentioned that contains the words “Personal Branding,” Dan is all over it like a kid in a candy store.

Smallness is nimbleness. Use it wisely.

3.)  Be A Human Through Small Talk

Goliath doesn’t care what you had for dinner last night, what your kids names are or how much you love your favorite sports team. Goliath just wants your money (insert evil laughter here).

On social media sites, big brands (not all of them), have trouble being human. Why? Well, for one thing, they might need 4853857 lawyers and 958588 board members to approve a Tweet or Facebook status update before it goes out.

You can out hustle by being a human and focusing on one-on-one relationships. Humans just don’t talk about business 100% of the time. How can you show your personality and care about others? Simple. Ask people how they are doing. Ask what they are working on. Congratulate people on accomplishments. Joke around. Have fun. Schmooze.

It may sound trivial, but it is important and builds genuine relationships. And business is all about relationships, right?

Who does this really well? Scott Stratten aka Unmarketing. One look at his Twitter stream will remind you that business is human. Take that Goliath!

Wrapping it up:

It used to be large and in charge was the way to go. Now, we all have the tools available to become nimble David’s and outmaneuver Goliath.

How are you acting smarter, faster, cheaper and taking on Goliath?


David Garland David Siteman Garland is the Founder of The Rise To The Top. The #1 Non-Boring Resource For Building Your Business Smarter, Faster, Cheaper. He hosts RISE, a web show for entrepreneurs featuring unique interviews and advice, and The Rise To The Top TV show on ABC. He is the author of Smarter, Faster, Cheaper: Non-boring, Fluff-free Strategies for Marketing and Promoting Your Business.

24 Reactions
  1. Awesome post, David!

    You said that;

    “On social media sites, big brands (not all of them), have trouble being human. Why? Well, for one thing, they might need 4853857 lawyers and 958588 board members to approve a Tweet or Facebook status update before it goes out.”

    Gosh. I really miss corporate America.

    The Franchise King

  2. Nice article.

    I think you really hit the nail on the head with #3. Relationships have always been important to most small businesses. As social media gives people a more intimate connection to companies, they can really leverage this – and I think most large companies will always struggle to give a real personal touch.

  3. Chris and Joel – Thanks for the kind words. It is always a pleasure to be on Small Biz Trends.

    I just think it is such an incredible opportunity right now for small businesses and entrepreneurs to out-hustle bigger.

    Chris – Right on. It is all about relationships and always been that way for small biz owners…the tools we have at our disposal now to scale that are ridiculous.

  4. I stumbled upon this article from a Google Alert, so I know that #2 works. Thanks for the great info!

  5. David,

    Great tips for us small business owners. Did you know that the name Martin is dedicated to the Roman war god, Mars? I will fight the Goliaths anytime… 😉

    All the Best,

    P.S. Will you create a fighting video too? 🙂

  6. Martin – Haha. Sounds like you are ready for war.

  7. Great advice David.
    The internet has certainly levelled the playing field between big business budgets and small business creativity like never before.

  8. Taking the David v. Goliath comparison a little further, David felled Goliath because he attacked in an unexpected way. Goliath had all kinds of protection against the traditional spear or sword. He was trained in defending against them. However, he was not protected against a small projectile being thrown from a sling. As a David you’ve got to find your special weapon, the one Goliath isn’t expecting, to strike a blow.

  9. Nice insightful article, David. I think there’s one other big, overarching strategy SMBs can use to beat “Goliath,” and that’s leaders placing a strong emphasis on employee engagement. This includes hiring for attitude and fit over skills to ensure the right people are “on the bus,” as well as giving them autonomy in their jobs and using smart practices to develop them for leadership roles.

    Our nonprofit has hosted an annual, engagement-themed SMB competition for the last 8 years, and a theme that is always present among the companies that rise to the top of our ranking is that they are able to compete on service (which is better for the bottom line than competing on price) with much larger competitors by doing this. Not to mention, in down economies like this one, they are also better able to grab top talent laid off from those firms.

    Thanks again for writing on this important topic.

  10. Dean – I agree with you 100%.

    Robert – Absolutely. He used brains and creativity as opposed to brute strength where he would have lost.

    Mark – Very interesting. Thanks for sharing and this certainly resonates in the non-profit world as well.

  11. Now there’s a topic that resonates! I had a conversation with Jim Koch, CEO and founder of The Boston Beer Company on this subject a few months ago. We discussed the role of focus – of doing what the Goliath couldn’t really do anymore.

    Often, it’s the case of staying deeply committed to things a larger player simply can’t take the time and effort to do anymore. The expertise – the “getting under your fingernails” – is something the giant can’t do anymore. This is an opening for any small brand and one the giant doesn’t really have time to contest!

    Stephen Denny

  12. Great post. I’d add that time also plays a big part in toppling the big guys, especially when it comes to creating content. Just keep on plugging away and eventually you’ll come out on top, or at least in a much better position than when you started.

  13. David,
    Terrific advice, and you write in a very clear “voice”. As a SBM, I never have enough time to implement all the strategies that are necessary and important for my survival…not to mention my key role in selecting the most beautiful and saleable dresses for my store. Prioritizing is the key. Also, a clear 1, 2, 3 key action list every day can help.
    Michael Weintraub aka The EveningWear Guy

  14. Stephen – Good point on focus.

    Gareth – Absolutely. Everyone wants the quick fix. It is a long journey.

    Michael – Glad you liked it! Priority is obviously key. The question becomes: What is your time best used for?

  15. Right on: Be nimble, be creative, and get personal certainly work. So, too, does social responsibility. Yes, I know that sounds like a cost but it is an asset. As a social entrepreneur and teacher of entrepreneurship at the New School, I have found that being socially responsible is one of the most nimble, quick, and creative things you can do.

  16. Excellent article David. I agree with others, there has never been a better time to compete with the Goliaths. Social Media he internet have far extended the reach of many a small business. It is still all about relationships.

  17. Great article!! We’re also taking our blogs and creating articles with them that we then submit to article directories such as http://ezinearticles.com/. I’ve noticed other sites have picked them up and used them on their site and added a link to our site.

  18. Loved this article. And it answered all the questions I had about this. Thanks for the recommendation.

  19. Great article! Time to get to work! 🙂