How can small businesses compete with established market players and win?

63 Answers
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Tobias Bergmann Tigerlab - Founder www.tigerlab.com

Of course, established market players have advantages, but so do small businesses.

Usually, it is harder for large businesses to stay flexible and react quickly when conditions in the market change. That is not the case for small companies, which often have better quality control and can provide a more authentic experience by directly contacting their clients.

By turning the size of your company into a competitive advantage, you can be more valuable than established market players.

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John Stevenson Zero Procure - Founder www.zeroprocure.com

Tenaciously work your relationships, stay agile and gain leverage from all of your successes. Do not underestimate the power of personal service and the confidence that gives your customers.  

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Tom Collings Watertight Management - Operations Director www.watertightmanagement.com

Big business struggles to operate effectively under its own weight, its sheer mass tends to be its downfall when competing with smaller companies in similar market areas, so there always opportunity.

Being a smaller business with key family values at heart, searching for, and developing, the right employees is fundamental. Next you need to expand deeper into niche market areas undertaking all work in house making you dynamic & flexible, something bigger business’s struggle to target effectively.

To conclude once you have the right people and values in place, everything you need in house to undertake any given client request at the drop of a hat, you just need to ensure that your customer/client focus is on point. A clear and concise can do attitude from a single point of contact is all they really want. Take the problem from them, develop and deliver the solution with the minimum of fuss and you will not only take your place amongst the big boys, but critically be paid well enough to continue investing into your business.

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Gareth Lee Techxi - Founder www.techxi.co.uk

As a small business owner, you need to compete where you can compete. This is not usually head to head, find your niche and take advantage of your ability to pivot quickly. Your desire and passion need to be visible in every interaction. More often than not your customers are interacting with people satisfying the requirements to obtain a salary not pursuing a vision, take advantage of that.

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Karl Kangur Smash Digital - Marketing Director www.smashdigital.com

One of the best things a small business can do to get ahead in established markets is spend as much time as possible mapping out various competitors and reverse engineering what has worked for them.

This means looking at the lower authority websites, seeing what keywords they’re ranking for, and replicating similar resources on their own site.

You can also use tools to see what ads they’ve been running for the longest, which landing pages have been working, and much more.

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel – your competitors have already spent the money doing the research for you and the data is available to you.

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Amanda Waterman-Voase SAVRES - CEO www.savres.com

I don’t believe that you need to compete with an established market player. You don’t need to compete with anybody, you just need to be better than them. Let them compete with you. Let them worry about you.

Be concerned with what you’re doing today and what you’re going to do tomorrow, not what somebody else did yesterday. That would be my advice to any business leader, new or old, focus on you and what you’re doing not what others have done.

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Chris Young GGRecon - Co-Founder www.ggrecon.com

The key to succeeding as a small business in what is an incredibly oversaturated digital world is through innovative and finding that point of difference from the big fish. When starting a small business it is important to set core fundamentals you stand by, but also leaving room to be agile and be prepared to adapt any strategy based on the market needs. It’s tough, as understanding those market needs will only come when you get in a constant flow, but ensuring quick adaption and continuous innovation will provide a kick start. Competitor analysis is also very important, but don’t set yourself up to ‘copy’ your competitors, a competitor analysis should be done specifically to understand what they’re missing, and it’s important to capitalise on that gap, or observe aspects the big fish aren’t necessarily doing well enough, and do it better!

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Matt Field Direct Insurance - Head of Marketing www.dilm.co.uk

Small businesses have a fantastic opportunity when competing with larger, more established peers using their agility to make decisions more quickly and react to opportunity accordingly. Less procrastination, more action!

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Yusuf Omar Hashtag Our Stories - Co-Founder www.hashtagourstories.com

Building a new business is like laying down fresh train tracks. You don’t build infrastructure for where people lived yesterday or even today. Build for how people will live tomorrow.

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Nick Sullivan Heritage Independent Living - Co-Founder www.heritageliveincare.co.uk

In any “impossible” situation, the key is always to ask the right question. With all the resources of the internet and/or your personal network, good answers are likely to follow.

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Iain Hatfield PolicyBee LLP - CEO www.policybee.co.uk

Small businesses are more agile than bigger players and so can offer a more personal service which is very important.
Also, small businesses need to specialise in their particular niche if they are to compete successfully.
The key thing, though, is for the business to be totally customer focussed and for management to have the well-being of staff as their primary focus.
In that way the team will be happy to take care of customers. Even an online business can give the right impression to customers with the right content and customer experience, if backed up by a friendly, professional, helpful team on the phone.
Look after customers first, do the right thing for the right reason in the right way, and the profits will follow.

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Eric Giroux GIROUX Limited - Founder https://giroux.co.uk

Like the Shawshank Redemption movie’s quote: “Time and Pressure” i.e. by single pointedly focussing on what you do, do it well and loving your work, it will appeal to customers and prospects. Like anything, it takes time to perfect a system and one day, breakthrough allways come. Be patient, love what you do, be clear about your vision by constantly refining it.

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Simon Douglass Curated Digital - Owner www.curated-digital.com

I think the key thing is to have a point of difference, a USP that helps you to stand out from the crowd. As a business you sell products and / or services, but what is it about those products or services that make them more special, more appealing, more desirable. I also think that generally speaking, smaller businesses (specifically service business) can be much more agile and consultative due to the size of their teams. You can get lost in a large organisation..

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Jeremy Small Jameson Legal - Founder www.jamesonlegal.com

I believe that we live in an era of disruption and there are many things that small businesses can do to compete with existing market players and win!
Three initial things would be:
1. Be a specialist in what you do and offer true expertise in the area that you service.
2. Create a company culture where people want to work with you and for you.
3. Be adaptable to the market you are in, to your clients and your employees. It’s easier for small businesses to adapt than larger players.

Don’t give up as small businesses can definitely grow to become established market players. Many of the biggest companies in the world were created only in the past 10-20 years.

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Karen Gittins Amdas Recruitment - Head of Marketing www.amdas.co.uk

Keep focused on what your business stands for and don’t get drawn into what the big competitors are doing. Become experts in your own field, listen to your clients, and keep abreast of what is happening in your market. Keep true to yourself. Being genuine and having integrity goes far in all types of business.

Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box and remember to work as a team. Lastly, give 100% and don’t promise what you can’t deliver.

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Stephen Card Carbon Underwriting - CEO www.carbonuw.com

Don’t compete, be different! To take on the big boys in their established area is never going to be easy whereas offering something different is. If you understand your market segment and find that you just can’t make headway against the prevailing forces, don’t be afraid to take the plunge and start your own business. It won’t be easy but stick to what you know, establish that it’s not a pipe dream by stress testing your ideas with real SME’s and go for it! It will be a rough ride, you will suffer mentally and physically and you will always have extremes of low and high but as long as your vision is clear then you will succeed. Remember though, it will take twice as long as you think and, it will cost twice as much as you thought!

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Algy Williams Every1Mobile - CEO www.every1mobile.com

On the road to becoming established market players, many companies become generalist in their search for scale. This provides the small ambitious company with a golden opportunity. Be very clear on your very specific strengths and your particular client offering. Only pitch for projects that clearly play to these strengths, as scatter gun bidding against much larger competitors can be a severe drain on limited resources. And think and act like a company many times your current size.

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Julian Baladurage MBJ - CEO & Co-Founder www.mbj.london

Keep evaluating your service, product, and business model as there’s always room for improvement. Don’t try to adapt to every little thing within the industry, instead, keep a tight grip on what’s happening around you. Be aware of the latest developments and trends, but also stay true to yourself. Don’t let your mind be swayed by what others are doing and don’t get too focused on what you do, forgetting about all variables around you. Don’t let obsession drive your product and avoid being too focused on one thing to the detriment of everything else.

Throwbacks and ugly surprises will arise, so be prepared. You need to stand up more often than you fall but always strive to keep a close grip on reality. Stay realistic and assess whether the fight is worth it. Sometimes, the best thing to do is take a step back and ask whether something is really working and if it’s worth pursuing.

Let go. Many entrepreneurs, including myself in the early days, tend to micro-manage everything. It’s normal that you want to be in control of everything. You have probably invested most of your own money, time, and made many sacrifices along the way. It’s important to know what to do yourself, and what to delegate to others. If you don’t, you will never be able to grow, scale, or keep your own creative freedom. You should focus on hiring the right people for the job and being able to delegate. Letting go of some of the control you have can allow your business to flourish and it will help you avoid burnout.

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Austin Kimm Crypterium - Co Founder www.crypterium.com

One bite at a time. Do not try to do everything at once, find the one thing you know you can do significantly better than the established market leaders, make sure it is something people really want (and I mean really want – customers are lazy so it has to be worth their effort to make a switch), and only after this is mastered move onto the next thing you can do much better.

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Alison Hilton People Puzzles - HR Director www.peoplepuzzles.co.uk

Imagine you are in the shoes of your customers – what are the products and services that you can offer that are going to help them be successful; and how can you deliver that for them in a way that works for them. Small businesses can offer more flexibility than larger organisations – be innovative for your customers.

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Neil Stephen Dualchas Architects - Owner

I can’t give any general pearls of wisdom on this question but I can speak from our experience. When my twin and I set up Dualchas we were not competing with established architecture practices. We were trying to compete against large established kit house companies who were dominating the self-build market in the Highlands. What we could offer was a story about our cultural connections: a vision of contemporary living inspired by and connected to our communities. In short, better design.

To compete we had to show we could deliver quality design for comparable costs; that design quality did not mean expensive. So we had to acknowledge and learn from what our competitors did well, but give extra value that they simply could not achieve. Larger companies often blithely sail their tanker onwards if sales continue and the market appear stable – they have no incentive to innovate or change. Smaller companies not only have to, they have the nimbleness to change direction very quickly.

Dualchas Architects, and our subsequent kit company, Hebhomes, can’t claim to have revolutionised the self-build house market – what we can claim is that we have found our way in to a market that had been largely ignored by architects and previously dominated by the mundane. We arrived and offered people choice. Our clients and customers love that they have houses that are connected to where they live, that they form part of a story that ties back to the buildings of the past, but may be cherished by their communities in the future.

Find your market, learn from others, be good at what you do…and work hard.

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Phil Beecher Wi-SUN Alliance - President & CEO www.wi-sun.org

Small businesses can be more agile and flexible than larger organisations. A small business can focus on its key skills and expertise, as well as listen to customers’s needs and work the customer to deliver a good solutions

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Radoslav Kirkov Estafet - Technology Director www.estafet.com

How David has won the battle with Goliath? Think how you can help. Be brave, flexible, smart, creative and think out of the box. Find the right tools (stone). Act quickly at the right moment.

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Josh Thomas Karakoram Innovation - Founder & CEO www.karakoram.xyz

Simply; small businesses are inherently able to pivot and move faster than established market players who have static roles, clients, and fixed cost employees who cannot easily be redeployed and reused in the way that the multidisciplinary entrepreneurs in small businesses can.  In today’s COVID world, the only constant is uncertainty and change – meaning that there is infinitely more opportunity for small businesses today than there was a year ago, with a force multiplier on the small firms’ uncanny ability to pivot on a dime and move where the market, audience, and clients need us to be far faster, cheaper, and with more agility than the big guys!

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Nick Earle Eseye - CEO www.eseye.com

I spent several years in Silicon Valley and saw first hand small companies competing and winning against big incumbents every day. There were three things they all had in common.. 1. They had a great product that solved an unmet need that customers cared about – not a bunch of cool features looking for a problem 2) They were selling into a massive addressable market – it has to be huge to attract the funding you need to keep hiring while you are losing money and 3) they were enabling a significant market disruption – large customers will take a punt on a small company if they are frustrated with the status quo and see you as an way of changing their competitive position. Of these number 3 is the most important – there are a lot of mice in the world but nobody needs a new mousetrap company. Instead, think about how can you make mice disappear so they don’t have to be caught in the first place.

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Mark Mcdermott ScreenCloud - Co-Founder & CEO www.screen.cloud

Even in an established market, there will always be customer pain and frustration. The incumbents may have set themselves up collectively to win but at the expense of the customer experience.

For example, in our digital signage category, the industry had decided that only expensive proprietary “commercial grade” hardware could be used by businesses and the go-to-market was via resellers who added extra services and margins on top. We offered a direct to customer solution with a free trial so you could begin instantly and get your hands on our product. Additionally, we opened up the possibilities of working on cheaper, easy to source hardware.

So the lesson here is to try and remove friction from the process, make it easy to buy from and knock down any unnecessary barriers to entry. You should do just fine.

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Jo Palma PALMA - Founder palma.global

Small businesses can compete with established market players in that we approach things outside of the “business as usual” arena. We have deeper involvement in each project from the top down, which creates more personal client relationships and higher quality delivery.

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John Wyer Bowles And Wyer - Founder

Think of yourself as a speedboat – fast, manoeuvrable and much more fun! Big businesses may have buying (or bullying) power, but they’re not agile. Smaller outfits have three advantages – firstly they can react quickly to changes in the market to take advantage of new opportunities. Secondly, they can really focus on the client and solving their problems. This is more difficult the larger a firm becomes. Talk to your clients and what happens? Better product fit: higher customer (and staff) satisfaction: more sales and higher margins. Thirdly, Culture is everything: challenging for larger businesses, but good news for you!

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Alex Ponomarev Stream Marine Training - Sales Director

Trying to win over the established companies you have to be quick to react, innovative and very flexible. You also need to have a clear understanding of what are the parts of the process the current players can not address as a tiny inconvenience in the Customer’s mind may convince them to look for alternatives. Find your own and company focus, don’t start something and not see it through to completion.

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Eden Bearn-Johnston Bunk - Head of Operations www.rentbunk.com

“Progress is impossible without change. You’ve got to approach things differently… find a value-add that the established players aren’t currently exploiting”

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Fiona Sweeney DataIQ - Managing Director www.dataiq.co.uk

Although comprising just 14 fte’s, we consider ourselves specialist or niche rather than small.
We don’t think about why our prospect will buy, instead we focus on why they will buy from us. Once they are convinced that their needs are uniquely supported by us, then the threat of competition and the issue of price become less important.
A motivated, professional and agile team, we lead the market. This means by the time our competition have replicated our proposition, we have already innovated and moved on. Alongside flawlessly delivery we create strong relationships- binding our members to us and to each other. Established organisations often overlook what a strong competitive advantage this is.

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Richard George HLPS - Co- Founder & CEO www.hlps.me

Easy: Sell a better product that slickly solves customer problems and ensure you get to work with great people who are much better than you at what they do. Don’t talk great brand values deliver them!

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Brendan Pocock Bridge Contract Interiors - Managing Director www.bridgecontractinteriors.com

Really the question is, why are the established market players who they are? It may be tech, branding, service, to name a few. Typically an established business has the financial might to stay where they are, however your small business has the agility of a weasel to get in and strike the underbelly! Can you buck the status quo of your chosen market, and offer something it needs but aren’t used to receiving?
Can you be no.1 in your chosen marketplace? (and why) If you can answer that positively you can compete with and win against anyone. Remember no.1 is not necessarily the biggest, it is the fastest growing company in your market.

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Nabil Freeman Lesalon Beauty - Co-founder & CTO www.lesalon.com

Established players can look untouchable from the outside, but they have probably spent years building processes around those original market truths they discovered that might not be true any more. And the great thing about this is now they’ve got all that inertia to overcome if direction needs to be changed. So the absolute most important thing you need to do as a small business is become an expert in your market as quickly possible. Understand all the factors and market truths by interviewing customers and quickly identify the opportunity. Then execute and scale as quickly as possible – your small size will be on your side.

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Mark Davidson Birkett Long - IT Director www.birkettlong.co.uk

Treat every customer like your first – you want them to be your ambassador, you want them to be blown away with your product and service. You can listen to their needs and be responsive and agile. You can give them a level of attention that a big brand can’t manage. Ever wonder why big brands give their biggest accounts dedicated account managers? It makes the big account feel valued. You can deliver that for everyone.

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Graham Leask Amplifi Capital - CFO www.amplificapital.com

Be good at what you do and deliver service. Small companies are usually more flexible in their approach and have better technology than older established businesses. Customers want quick decisioning and speedy action – a customer friendly experience. Established market players become monolith super-tankers where it is hard to change direction. Plenty of room for smaller business to take business from them profitably.

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Justin Francis Responsible Travel - Founder www.responsibletravel.com

Get a big piece of paper, draw a line down the middle. On the left hand side write down the ‘rules’ of the sector you are in – the conventions of how businesses in it operate. Pay particular attention to things you don’t like, or frustrate you. Make sure sustaniability is part of that. Then on the right hand side, write the opposite. These are the founding principles for your business.

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Dylan Walker World Cetacean Alliance - CEO www.worldcetaceanalliance.org

We live in a world of micro niches where it is possible to reach a global audience with a very specific product or service. If you’ve got a good idea then you really can make it stick, but should your goal even be to compete with the established market players? Not necessarily! Winning as a successful business is about far more than financial accumulation and rising to the top of the pile in your industry. What about your personal aspirations, your morals, your ethics? The businesses I admire most put their ability to do good in the world ahead of their desire to make the most money. Businesses like Patagonia and Responsible Travel are not market leaders but they are thought leaders, pushing their industries to be more responsible and more sustainable. They are campaigning for changes that will benefit each and every one of us and they are iconic brands that people increasingly wish to be associated with. My advice is to put your best idea and your ability to make a positive impact on the planet front and centre of your business plan. The rest will follow naturally!

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Matthew Kay Aira - Head of Operations www.aira.net

Focus on your ideal customer. The only way to make more sales is to spend more time with prospects who are a good fit for your offering, and less time with those who are not. We’ve all spent time with leads who could potentially generate revenue for the business but aren’t a perfect match. We’ve either lost those deals or regretted chasing them later on – particularly in small businesses where you have less resource, you must hone in on those that are a good fit and not deviate, otherwise, larger entities will capitalise on those good fit prospects.

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Jon Dudgeon Blu Sky - Co-Founder www.blusky.co.uk

By being flexible and adapting quickly to customer wants and needs an SME can provide unique innovative products / services that larger players take years to develop.

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Charlie Nelson Fundi Pizza - Co-Founder www.fundipizza.com

By staying true tho their original values. Not necessarily making decisions based on making the money the fastest way.

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John Edwards Prezzy Box - CEO www.prezzybox.com

Be innovative, be different, take risks but sensible ones or at least ones that you can afford. Listen to older people and don’t dismiss them as “old farts” – they have probably got the T-shirt. There is an old saying “learn from your mistakes” I never use it instead replacing the word mistakes with experiences. If you try something that doesn’t work don’t be afraid to try it again later…Probably though the most important thing I would say is use common sense …….there are some very clever people with a lack of it.

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Ruth Rubin Proactive - Founder & CEO www.weareproactive.co

Yes, the corporates have deeper pockets than you, but they often cannot compete on agility of smaller businesses. Your ability as a smaller business to remove cumbersome bureaucratic red tape is a superpower to be marketed and used! Streamlined processes, fewer layers of management means faster delivery and issues being dealt with much quicker. This is an attractive proposition. Maybe once the corporates were like you and smaller and personable with a founding culture of passion and caring…but this often gets diluted as uniformity kicks in. You as a non-corporate have this passion advantage so turn that volume up and let your gratitude for the business be shown in words and deeds. Finally, I was featured here being asked the same question. https://www.recruiter.co.uk/news/2019/12/add-value-and-act-expert-retain-corporate-clients

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Chris Platts ThriveMap - CEO/Co-founder www.thrivemap.io

Don’t play to win, play to play the game as well as you can. Just do the things that are in your control to the best of your ability. Things like who you hire, who you sell to, how you sell, how you market, what you build and why you do it. Monitor your trajectory rather than looking at the current results you’re getting and keep making small improvements to the process every day.

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Val Stangoe St. Mary's Hospice - CEO www.stmaryshospice.org.uk

If I think about who our competitors are I’d be thinking about the big national charities. The ones that move into an area and have a national team to fall back on in areas like Marketing and Comms and a big national brand. You can worry that too many things run in their favour and get involved in trying to second guess what they will do. But remember they can never have the relationship that you can as a local. So don’t worry about what they’re getting up to. As a small business focus on your own strengths. Be the best you can. Work with integrity and humour, deliver your promises. Build the strongest relationships you can with your local community. Keep looking forward.
Then use the incremental gains method to keep gradually improving across the board. Look for others across the board you admire or envy and pinch ideas from them relentlessly. To do that you’ll need a good team so recruit people with passion and drive, remember skills can be taught, attitude sticks. Choose your team wisely then get out of their way and let them do the best job they can for you. Applaud your team when they do well.
In a nutshell. Be true to yourself and use your strengths. Keep improving. Be thankful.

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Florian Kittler HVS Executive Search - Managing Director Europe & Asia Pacific www.hvs.com

When pitching for business against more established players, I share what I can do and how I’d help after I have listened and understood what problem they are trying to solve, not before. I make it about them not me in my pitch. I see the experience through their eyes and performing on that promise whilst putting my best effort into every detail of the delivery.
Our company chose to cater to a very market and go deeper against a more general and wider approach.
We think what we can do to make things easier to do business with us. How we can add value through the little things as well as the big ones. We are not afraid to show our personality and that of our firm and that we care about long term retention over short term gain.
It’s that simple, but you’d be surprised how exceptional this can be.

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Alexander Mitchell Blind Cupid - CEO www.blindcupid.co.uk

Often markets are saturated with big companies. To many, this means that there’s no point in trying to compete. This is often a mistake.

Across markets, the individuals behind leading companies often presuppose various premises meaning that they start to build their businesses from point C instead of point A. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t successful – they clearly are if they are currently winning the market. If you understand logic and critical thinking well enough, you can enter the market without any presuppositions and begin to create something better from point A and offer an even better product or service.

That’s what we have done at Blind Cupid. For instance, we see that other matchmaking companies have presupposed that agreement on an issue equates to compatibility. It doesn’t. If two people have different rationales as to why they arrive at the same conclusion, they are actually at odds with each other – not in agreement.

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Danny Scott CoinCorner - CEO & Co-Founder www.coincorner.com

How can small businesses compete with established market players and win?
One of the key ways to compete with established market players is by analysing them, not only once or annually, but continually to see what your competitors do and don’t do well. Competitor research not only helps you to find gaps to fill, but also offers guidance on what does and doesn’t work in your industry so that your business doesn’t have to waste time/money on R&D or trialling ideas.

Gaps could come in many forms. For example, early on we spotted that our competitors’ technical SEO was weak and this presented an opportunity for us. We concentrated on doing everything right from an SEO perspective which was low cost and had a big impact. We didn’t see results until 6-12 months of hard work had been put in and then finally we began ranking higher in Google for the UK search term “Buy Bitcoin”. Overall, this led to us gaining the majority of our registrations organically and for free.

Our efforts took persistence and this is another piece of advice in itself – remembering that success doesn’t happen overnight. There’s a famous saying that it takes 10 years to make an overnight success and it’s stuck with me for many years.

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Nick Johnson IP Access - Founder And CTO www.ipaccess.com

When we started, we thought we had such a great product that the OEMs would just adopt it, and sell it for us to the mobile operator behemoths. But while the established OEM suppliers were keen to talk, they never really had an intent to adopt our stuff. They spent a lot of time and energy briefing the operators against us, while smiling encouragingly at us – what the Americans charmingly and accurately call the “grin-fuck”. We needed to reach out to the end customer directly and make sure our product was tuned to meet their needs, even though we didn’t have the resources to deliver it directly on our own. This took a long time and a lot of conversations, and we were lucky to have something interesting enough to talk about. We got very good at answering the question, “If this is such a good idea, why aren’t our established OEMs doing it?” without reaching over the table and slapping someone. While this was going on, and we were more and more confident that the customer was really going to buy, we had to find a partner to supplement our resources to deploy and support the solution. We found a good one – someone who wasn’t an established OEM to the customers, but who had scale and reputation and from adjacent fields, and crucially, the ambition to displace the incumbents and the muscle to do it. Also, and this is also crucial, this partner had the financial ability to support us with product sales while the end customer dilly-dallied. But while a big like-minded partner is essential, it brings its own challenges. You start out thinking they can do the heavy-lifting with the customer, but they won’t and actually can’t because we were the product experts, not them. The reality is that they focus the customer’s red-hot fire-storm of demands down to white-hot pain points which we had to learn to deal with. But we did win out. We beat some massive OEMs to the contract, and deployed over 2m product. The solution is still operating in the network ten years later.

So if I’m going to summarise that experience, you need (i) a great product that you’ve honed to the customers’ needs over a significant period, (ii) a great partner who believes in the product and mission, who is motivated as much as you are to succeed, and who can support you financially through the ups and downs of the deployment at scale, and (iii) a few seriously talented, super hard-working and fire-proof individuals who can manage the demands of the customer as concentrated by the partner and turn them into executable actions to move the business forward. Leave your ego at home, don’t get angry, look yourself in the eye every day, deal with things as they are, not as you think they ought to be, work to make them how you think they ought to be. And most of all, enjoy it. It may turn out to be your only shot.

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Emma Roberts Creaseys - Ceo

Change the rules, make up your own game and make sure you can win.

Don’t do what they do, think about what you can do and what you can do better than them, then do that, just that and get better and better.

You have something you just need to find it, it’s probably so obvious you are staring right at it and you just can’t see it. When you see it forget everything you thought you knew and do whatever you think will make you better at that.

Look everywhere for great ideas, especially outside your sector and then experiment in your business to see if they could work for you.

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Russell Horton FluidOne - Ceo www.fluidone.com

Once you get in front of a prospect I find being small allows you to be agile, flex the solution to the client, often using higher level experts than the big player would engage, and showing the client they would be important to you and get real attention. We often win against the major carriers/brands in tenders and we have great retention and much high customer satisfaction (NPS 66 v carriers under 20).

So first make sure you have great service delivered by happy motivated staff, this will make you stand out v larger players.
The tough part is getting in front of a prospect, if they haven’t heard of your brand before why would they entertain meeting you, and how do you get them to take the meeting when you have nowhere near the marketing budget? Target your spend wisely, be really clear on the segments of customers you are best fit for and will win, and focus on how to get to that segment. Win relevant awards that they will see and use these in your website, social and email. Be innovative and a thought leader as this will aid interest and prospects taking a risk of talking to someone they don’t know due to the interest in your new product or service.

Outbound marketing still works well and allows rifle shot targeting to the segment you are after, combine with a strong web and social presence so that when they do check you out it portrays your unique selling points and credibility. Get referrals from happy customers and case studies. Partner with big brands that you can combine into a solution to resell and add value to and they will often aid with leads and marketing funding. Adopt a multi level approach to marketing so you gain several touch points with relevant prospects and build their awareness and confidence in you.

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Nick Thompson The Phone Co-op - Ceo www.thephone.coop

I believe it comes down to three things – authenticity; commitment and experience – put simply as a small business you can ace it.
Authenticity – All businesses reach a point when sustaining the business becomes more important that doing the business and they lose their authenticity. some spend £millions pretending to be authentic. Small businesses can simply be authentic.
Care – When businesses grow they inevitably get to the point where more people get involved and at some stage people care less, in the worst case stop caring. Everyone of my customers feels personal to me and they know that I care about them. and when things go awry that matters.
Experience – small businesses have the opportunity to see, and therefore think about, the whole experience, work isn’t siloed and when you see the whole picture it is easier to see where you can make that difference.
So be ACE and show the big boys how its done.

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