The alternate title for this blog post was “Be the perceived underdog.” When you are a small business competing against the “big boys” however, the underdog status is almost automatic. Instead I want you to go in as the perceived sheep being beat up on by your larger competition. Make no mistake about it. You have competition and they are not necessarily your friends.
The tricky part here is to be underestimated by your larger competitors just long enough to gain traction and start to take business away from them. You don’t want to be underestimated by your potential clients and the industry as a whole. See how that could be a tricky balance to create?
For example, unless you have the finances to maintain it, try not to be flashy. Don’t show up at one trade show with a huge flashy booth and then not even have a booth at the next one. Just keep showing up at the key trade shows. Sometimes that will mean simply walking the floor for a couple days and other times it will mean taking a small booth or partnering with larger players who are not your competition.
Choose marketing approaches that are sustainable and to the outside world might look like you are just getting by. When you do score the sit down meetings with potential clients, then it’s time to show them how flashy you can be. But I’m talking about substance-filled flash. Bring your A-Game and present the best of what you and your new (or not so new) venture can bring to the table to help them solve the big problems they are facing.
Play nice with the big bad wolf
Remember, you are probably tiny compared to the big bad wolves of your industry. In most industries, those players have a host of clients who don’t like their heavy-handed tactics. That, however, is no reason for you to not play nicely and perhaps even partner with theses larger players. Their detractors will know what they don’t like about them and you can play on that during your one-on-one presentations with potential clients.
In the meantime, be supportive of your largest competitors in the public space. Heck, they could become your best source of leads because when you are small the trick is to serve a small niche market and serve it well. You might even be able to serve that niche in a way that is mutually beneficial to you and the big bad wolf.
Don’t be a wolf in the hen house
Being a bully is easy and lots of big successful companies do it without realizing it. Take the high road whenever you can and try to make sure that is almost all the time. Bashing your competitors will end badly. Word that you are bashing them will get back to them and – trust me – they have more resources than you. If they decide you are a target, they could easily make your business life a living hell.
Make people want to do business with you because you have the best solutions and the nicest people. It’s a more sustainable business model anyway, right?
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