Five ways small firms can compete with bigger rivals
There’s no point in patronising anyone by claiming the internet has levelled the playing field for small businesses looking to take on larger rivals. Competing with the big boys is still incredibly tough and although the internet has made it easier, it certainly hasn’t made it easy.
So how can companies with limited resources score victories against firms with revenues you can only dream of?
Be the best in your niche
If you’re a marketing company, the chances are you’re not going to win many battles by going head-to-head with the giants of the sector. In a straight fight, they’ll out-pitch you, outspend you and, if they need to, undercut you just to stop you taking business away from them.
None of which seems fair, but there are ways to hit back. Calling Distilled a small business almost seems patronising. After all, they have offices in London, New York and Seattle. But they only have 50 employees, so in the strictest sense they are small.
Regardless of this, they still do business for some of the biggest brands you can think of, including Microsoft, the Telegraph and Staples. Why? Because they’re one of the best search engine optimisation firms around. Put simply, they offer a service larger rivals just can’t match.
Getting to this position is by no means easy, but it is achievable no matter what sector you’re operating in. The more you stand out in your niche, be that SEO or wooden pallet manufacturing or whatever, the more likely you are to win big contracts.
Remember (some) big firms are your friends
Right now you’re probably eyeing Distilled’s client list with a large degree of jealousy, and you’d be right to do so. The lesson you should take away from it though, is that not all big firms are your rivals. In fact, plenty of them will want to help you out as long as you’re offering what they need.
It stands to reason that in a business-to-business environment your customers are other companies, whether they’re big or small. But even if you’re a consumer-centric firm, you can still do business with larger companies.. Subcontracting is common, the key is making sure your firm is positioned to take advantage of any opportunities that arise.
Networking is vital here – so make sure you attend key events and make contacts. Write for industry publications, speak to journalists, get your name and your company’s name out there. That way, you’ll be better positioned to land big deals when they come up.
Think local, act local
Of course, there are some sectors for which the above tips don’t apply. Starbucks, for example, don’t subcontract their sales of coffee. Most small firms in this position will have a limited catchment area, so the focus has to be on attracting attention and standing out from the crowd.
That people are conducting large parts of their lives online has made it easier for local companies to attract attention. The topic of local SEO deserves a blog post to itself, but put simply if you have a business and you don’t show up on Search Engine Maps then you’re miles behind your rivals – big and small.
Learn about Google Places, and at the very least get yourself listed. If you’ve got the budget to spare, you might want to employ a specialist SEO agency to help.
Being more visible online will help get people through the door, after that you can woo them however you want; a quirky theme, special offers, anything you think might make them come back for more.
Love your customers
The internet has made it somewhat easier for big companies to deliver good customer service, but their very nature means they’ll never be able to compete with small businesses when it comes to making people happy. The bigger the company, the harder it is to make individual customers feel special. As a small firm, you need to make sure you’re dedicated to making your customers happy. Doing so means you’ll secure repeat business and word of mouth recommendations.
Use the cloud
This article started with a pledge not to patronise people by claiming the internet has levelled the playing field for small firms, but when it comes to cloud computing it has. Of course, the cloud isn’t a magic wand which can transform your company into a world beater overnight, but it has made top-level business applications more affordable, putting them within reach of even the most humble of start-ups. <a href=http://mailchimp.com/>MailChimp</a> lets you handle your marketing emails for next to nothing, Trello allows you to manage workflows with ease. In fact, if you can think of it, there’s probably a cloud service which does it. These tools can give you a competitive edge but, as with all these tips, it’s up to you to make it count.
Guest post by Will Stevens of 123-reg – the UK’s largest provider of domain names. The company has recently launched a new line of cloud servers.
We, at Microsoft, provide ‘Talking Business’ to help entrepreneurs and business owners’ succeed. We believe in your ability to innovate and in the ability of technology to help, so to support ‘Talking Business’ we have many resources available for businesses like you. We have an informative newsletter, blog posts by people in the industry, and a community looking to help small business succeed.
Follow us on twitter – @MicrosoftSB, or use the hashtag #TalkingBusiness to find out more information