Succeeding As the Little Fish in the Big Pond

When you set out to start a business, you can’t possible anticipate all of the challenges that will be faced. Many, many days you will find that something totally unexpected can come into your world and dominate your thoughts, perhaps even threatening your livelihood. However, most every entrepreneur knows that they start out the underdog. It is your job number one to figure out how to compete with the market leaders, outfoxing them when you can to carve out enough market share to pay your employees and pursue your dream.

First to market can be a hard advantage to overcome. Note – not impossible – just hard. 

little fish quote The Office imageWriting for Inc.com recently, Mayra Jimenez described how she and her husband found a way to compete with “the big dogs” in their industry. Her designer swimwear business, The Orchid Boutique, has grown nicely into a multimillion-dollar business. Here are some of the insights she shared earlier this week:

Separate “professional” from “robotic”

Larger companies tend to present themselves in a rather corporate manner. Their frosty approach gives you a chance to charm the market with your personalized company story. Clients want to feel they are shopping with a company that cherry-picks their products or personalizes their services in some manner. Casualness and customization are not your enemy! Take advantage of the fact that your ideas don’t have to go through a string of departments to get approved, and make it as personal as you can.

React quickly to industry trends

The most important advantage that you have over your competitor is your ability to react quickly. The bureaucracy of large teams and approval processes are tedious and time-consuming. While your senior competitor moves like an elephant, you’re a vibrant cheetah running rapidly towards your next milestone. Stay abreast of innovative strategies and implement them. This is especially important in ecommerce, as blogging, videos, and social media have changed the rules of converting browsers to customers.

Push the boundaries of your industry playbook

Let yourself think outside the box. Way outside the box. Be bold. As long as the end goal is increasing profit or branding, go for those ideas that sound crazy. Monitor the results closely, and if it’s not working, change it, cheetah.

Consider Mayra’s recommendations in your own business. How can you improve the customer experience to be more friendly, less obtrusive, an easier to navigate? When technology or another factor causes your market segment to shift, how can you respond nimbly and be on the cutting edge of innovation (though not out in front, as that often carries unnecessary risks)? All too often, established companies suffer from the “TTWWADIH” syndrome – that’s the way we’ve always done it here. Since you don’t have as much history, use it to your advantage and brainstorm new approaches that make sense for you, your team, and your target customer- without the constraints of worry about whether it will seem outlandish! 

Long ago, I heard the saying, “when small, act big; when big, act small.” The adage is just as wise today as it was when I first heard it. Think about how you can copy the things you like about your competitor but outmaneuver them in a subtle myriad of ways.

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