Can I Take On Industry Giants With My Small Startup?

In business there’s a fine line between positivity and naivety.

So if you’re planning to take on an industry giant, you’ve got to have realistic expectations.

The harsh reality is that a great product, strong branding, and tremendous work ethic may not be enough to capture your market. You could do everything well and still fail because you did not have the resources — money, workforce, profit margins — to muscle in.

Yet many small business continue to thrive in hugely competitive industries.

So what’s their secret? How do small companies survive with the odds so heavily stacked against them?

Tips For Taking On An Industry Leader

Taking on an industry leader requires ambition. It requires investment. But most importantly, it requires strategy. You need to avoid misplacing your energy and focus; especially when you don’t have unlimited resources, or time to waste.

Based on my experiences — as well as those of my closest entrepreneurial friends — I’ve got some simple advice that’ll help maximise your chances.

1. Use Being “Small” To Your Advantage

One of the biggest advantages you have over larger companies is, ironically, the same as your weakness: you’re small. You don’t have to pretend to be a huge corporation to succeed; be true to who you are.

Talk directly with customers to provide a personalised customer service. Give an insight into the people behind your brand, and show your passion for the industry. Be a face rather than cold, shiny veneer with no personality.

Many startups play on being small and ‘authentic’. And right now, more than ever before, it’s cool to buy from small niche brands that ‘nobody’s heard of’. It’s the hipster way. So why not take advantage of your small size and relative obscurity where you can?

2. Specialise

Big companies can’t devote 100% of their focus to each and every product or service in their field. So this leaves opportunities for smaller companies to specialise.

What are the big companies neglecting?

In my business — sports equipment — the industry giants (e.g. Nike, Adidas) devote almost most of their efforts to popular sports. Many niche sports items are neglected.

And I’m not the only one that’s carved a niche in a competitive industry. A close friend of mine started a gin brand a couple of years ago — in yet another market where huge names operate. The most established brands focus on producing standard gin rather than the highly specialised flavours offered by craft companies. The giants have “bigger fish to fry”, it seems.

But what’s small fry to an industry leader is still huge to likes of you and I. And with so many niche products/services unexplored and under-developed by large corporations, there’s still opportunities to capture a smaller market for yourself.

3. Do Something New

Having money helps in creating the next big idea — but some ‘light bulb’ moments occur organically. So being an industry leader doesn’t automatically guarantee innovation.

Seek an entirely new take on a product/service in order to put yourself at an advantage from the get-go. Bring a fresh idea to the market (perhaps patent the idea in the process), and be first to the punch. In doing so, you may evade huge competitors for long enough to establish your business and form a customer base. Do everything well, and larger companies will find it harder to dismount you.

Several websites and products I’ve created — as simplistic as they might seem — were a “first”. My sports betting blog is one of the first detailed blogs to discredit bookmakers. My goalkeeper blog is one of the first (if not the most detailed) site out there to provide psychological content for aspiring goalkeepers. And several of my physical products are the first of their kind to ever be distributed by Amazon.

The moral here is to refrain from simply copying your competitors. If you create the same products as them, then what’s your advantage?

Assuming you’ve found a market, then the more unique your idea, the better.

Pick your battles wisely. Consider your strengths and weaknesses. Take inspiration from small startups that continue to thrive, despite larger corporations having the lions share of market.

You may also find my post ‘Is Online Business A Gamble?‘ helpful.

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