Chances are, if you and your company are doing something right, you’ve attracted the attention of a giant. That could mean you’ve spent years perfecting your product or service only for Google, Amazon or Microsoft to step in and launch their take on your idea. Then other companies catch onto the trend, too.
They say imitation is the highest form of flattery.
There’s nothing wrong with playing in a crowded space with leaders or even jumping in a little late on the action, assuming you’re playing your cards right. While it may feel like there’s a competitor waiting for you behind every corner, the key to your business’ success isn’t contingent on empty markets, but rather the strengths that drive your business forward in a validated market.
Instead of panicking when a giant enters your space, or at least after the initial stages of panic, reassess what this means for your company and how you can keep growing to push past the noise.
Tips for Competing With Big Players
1. Move fast, release quickly and launch often. You’re way faster than the big boys.
While competing against the giants (and their seemingly bottomless budgets) may sound daunting, there are several benefits of being a bootstrapped startup and speed is at the top.
Change and refine your product quickly and often if it means enhancing the user experience. It takes big, public companies easily one full quarter to implement a product update and your team can have a modification up and running in just a few days — no politics involved. Use this to your advantage by responding to customer feedback immediately with adjustments and continue to push the innovation envelope.
The big guys put too much at risk when taking chances and are, therefore, too scared to make mistakes.
2. In terms of marketing, know where the puck is going.
Anticipate that giants are going to come after your booming market and coin the right terms as part of your core messaging. For example, let’s say “cloud” has been part of your tagline from the start. When Microsoft launched its “to the cloud campaign,” your search traffic easily doubled — if not tripled.
Stay current with the language relevant to your space so you can easily jump in the conversation.
3. Respect your customers by not just responding quickly, but changing the product. Please them.
We’ve all had that same burdensome experience when you wait on the phone for hours, be it with your bank, insurance company or an airline, to get the help you need. Even worse, you could be dealing with a robot telling you to “press 5 for more options.”
Customer service from corporate giants is notoriously frustrating and as a small business, you have the major advantage here. Your employees are not only more accessible to customers, they’re near and dear to the product, making their customer care more sincere and insightful.
And since customers have become a business’ best marketing tool, the impact of quality customer service is immeasurable.
4. Distribute your company under a giant’s brand through partnerships.
That’s right — giants can be your friends. While a direct competitor may not be a fit, another giant that could benefit from leveraging your services could be a great candidate for a partnership. Bigger companies that are outside your immediate industry are your best bet, as they’ll appreciate saving the time and effort that goes into building the product themselves, especially if they don’t have existing expertise in the field.
They benefit from extending their offering to include your services and you’re able to capitalize on the giant’s wide industry reach.
5. Lastly, the most important element of all – put forth an excellent product.
Of course, there’s no use competing in a big, busy market (or any market at all, for that matter), if you’re not putting forth an excellent product that people love. The product is the DNA of your business and you can’t pursue steps 1 – 4 without mastering it.
Ultimately, you don’t need to panic if an industry leader joins your playing field. And if you’re considering starting a business, don’t be disheartened if a lot of other companies are already offering a similar kind of service. If you carve your own niche, there will be room for your business to grow.
You should still look before you leap and do your research on how you can stand out, but play into your strengthens and don’t let a saturated market stifle your ideas.
Big Versus Small Business Photo via Shutterstock
I love what Tony Hsieh said in his book about what made the companies that he had established successful: what about your company can not be replicated? Zappos sells shoes … or does it. Tony would argue that Zappos delivers happiness to it’s customers and employees.
I have often experienced awesome customer service that impressed me so much that I was forgiving of other shortcomings and stuck with them anyway. Simply because I knew they were there when I ran into a problem and fixed it quickly.
Nothing makes me more loyal than a service that never fails to satisfy me. You are correct about refining your product to meet customer preferences. When a big giant takes over it doesn’t always mean it’s the end of the world for your business. You’re here first; you already know how the wheels work so all you have to do is improve it. You get the upper hand so maintain that.
My behavior turns into commitment every time I call customer service and they answer directly following with the best resolution to all my inquiries. What I noticed about small companies is that they are truly interested in a customers feedback, but most importantly they are always listening.