Competing with Big Business

by | Small Business Consulting

When you run into a large competitor, do not count your company out. Your small company can play with the big boys if you use certain tools to your advantage.

It turns out that the story about David and Goliath still hits a nerve today. A recent survey of small business owners listed “competing with big business” as one of their chief concerns.

It’s true that the giants in your industry have some advantages: Name recognition…deep pockets…access to capital….an ability to take advantage of quantity discounts when buying supplies and equipment…and on and on…

Still, if you position your company correctly, being smaller doesn’t have to be a weakness. Here are some tips to remember when you’re preparing to step into the ring with the big guys.

Less Can Be More

Your smaller company can offer attention to detail and provide customer service that your larger counterparts probably can’t.

For instance, does a real, live human being answer the phone when a customer calls? Can you assign dedicated, knowledgeable staff to even small accounts? Can you, or other senior executives at your company, offer personal attention to at-risk, or trouble accounts?

Your lean organization likely doesn’t have to deal with the levels of bureaucracy, red tape, and organizational mazes that are part of big companies, so turn your size into an advantage. A one-person human resources consultant in Chicago accomplishes this by telling her prospects, “you’ll always be dealing directly with the principal.”

You should practice saying that. It’s brilliant!

Listen, and Solve Problems

Part of the joy of running a small firm is that you can change course to take advantage of customer needs or trends in your market more quickly than a big company, where making even minor adjustments can seem harder than turning around a battleship.

You can respond to customer questions and complaints faster because there are fewer stakeholders that have to meet, discuss, and approve your action or response, so use this to your advantage.

Example: Did a customer of your janitorial services company ask if you offer exterior pressure washing? Well, if it makes economic sense then, yes, of course you do. No lengthy market study is required and you don’t need to pitch “corporate” on the merits of the addition.

The bottom line is, you can approach your customers with an aggressive, “we solve problems” approach that isn’t usually apparent in the cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all structure of larger firms.

So, if you aren’t already, work to cultivate a corporate culture that is flexible and open-minded in meeting customer needs, and then make it part of your selling proposition.

Use Social Media Properly

If you’re not using social media to your advantage, you’re probably missing opportunities. A strong presence online can help level the playing field versus your larger counterparts, and let you push the advantages of working with you instead of them.

Fair warning: Doing social media the right way isn’t easy, especially at first. Consistency, relevancy, and quality of content are very important. But, in terms of increasing site traffic, generating leads and eventually making sales, it’s tough to beat.

And, somewhere on your website, be sure to effectively tell your company’s story. There’s something special about your business that makes it unique and interesting (started in parents’ garage, staffed entirely by ex-Navy Seals, minority-owned, etc.) and memorable to visitors – so be sure to share that on Facebook, Twitter and the like.

Call Your Witnesses

Client testimonials, case studies and recommendations can be powerful weapons in your battle to convince your prospects that bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better.

This is especially true for illustrating and demonstrating the flexibility and customer care mentioned earlier. A satisfied client doesn’t care if a company of 5,000 (or just five) addressed his concerns as long as he leaves feeling satisfied.

So make sure your website has several customer accounts of how your smaller firm helped during a sticky situation. It’s even better if the testimonial vividly shows how your flexibility and responsiveness saved the day.

Strength in Numbers

Never forget that your small company is really part of a very large family of small businesses. There are national (NFIB, U.S. Chamber of Commerce) and regional and local groups that exist to offer support, guidance, legislative advocacy, and other resources to companies like yours.

The combined influence can assist in leveraging your purchasing power for health insurance and employee benefit plans, help you network for new business leads, and obtain high-quality financial and legal advice on par with that available to big companies.

Industry groups and trade associations offer similar benefits. Shop around to find an arrangement that can help your company compete and grow.


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