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Killing Giants: Three Rules for Toppling the Goliath in Your Industry

by Stephen Denny  |  
April 11, 2011

In this article, you'll learn...

  • How to take on the big dogs in your industry
  • Three tips for playing the hand you've been dealt, and getting stellar results

We all face giants, those competitors who seem to have more people, budgets, and resources than we can ever hope to have. And despite the uphill fight, we're asked to not only compete but also win. Worse, we're asked to assume this Herculean task with smaller budgets and fewer people than we had last fiscal year.

On paper, it sounds crazy—in person, it sounds even worse, of course—but it's the reality we're working under. We're all being asked to do more with less. So what are we supposed to do?

In Killing Giants: 10 Strategies to Topple the Goliath In Your Industry (Portfolio, March 2011), I explain not only why it's possible to battle goliath but also why it's a means to the best work you'll ever do in your career.

Our best thinking comes when we're faced with constraints. Maybe we're just better art critics than we are artists, but given the need to focus within the confines of the possible we find a surprising insight: Though our resources may be limited, our ingenuity is freed.

We're in an age of ideas now, and our worth to our employers is no longer bound by the economic resources put in our care. Our value springs from the quality of our ideas, the passion we bring to breathing life into them, and the discipline we apply to their execution in the market. There is no shortage of this new resource: It's us, and what resides in our heads and hearts.

Do you need to topple the giant in your industry? Are you asked to play the hand you've been dealt as skillfully as possible? Here are three ideas you can put to work today to win the fights you're not supposed to win.

1. Seize the microphone

Who is the voice in your market? Is your giant controlling the dialogue, or is there just a lot of noise, with the major players all jockeying for bragging rights in the "speeds and feeds" outlets? If no one is the voice, be the voice. Even if you're not the biggest player. Especially if you're not the biggest player.

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Stephen Denny has been a marketer for more than two decades and blogs about strategy, marketing, and big ideas at Download his e-book, This Sentence Has 5ive Words: Eigen Values, Creating Truisms and the Future of Marketing and follow him on Twitter: @Note_to_CMO.

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  • by Warren Mon Apr 11, 2011 via web

    hmmm....there seems to be a sick thread that runs through this article and its content. First, is the use of GoDaddy's CEO as an example to follow. A guy who recently filmed himself KILLING an elephant in Africa. (see: CEO Bob Parsons' Elephant Hunt Sparks Outrage here: Then I remembered the name of this article (and associated book) is called "Killing Giants." Kinda makes me wonder what this author's personal value system really is.

  • by Andy Farrell Mon Apr 11, 2011 via web

    @Warren, I shared similar concerns regarding the elephant killing video.

    However, someone I knew who had a much better handle on the issue changed my mind about the ethics at stake. Whilst I still think Bob may have made a mistake publicizing the act, the killing itself was in fact part of a controlled cull which is necessary to ensure the survival of the rest of the heard, and to protect food sources critical to humans who co-exist with the elephants.

    Being a very poor country, the fact people are prepared to pay for the right to shoot these animals, is actually a great help to the cause of the locals who desperately need help controlling the burgeoning elephant population in the area.

    Things are not always as they seem.

  • by Elizabeth Todd Mon Apr 11, 2011 via web

    Thanks for an excellent article Stephen.

    I particularly like your “Win in the Last Three Feet” suggestion. It makes a lot of sense, needs no more than a good feel for the customer needs within an industry and can be implemented at little or no cost.

    In my role as a small business coach I often work with new business owners who find themselves in a "Fighting the Giants" situation. I will certainly add your suggestions to my portfolio of business building tips.

  • by Stephen Denny Mon Apr 11, 2011 via web

    "You may not like its ads—many don't, including Barbara Lippert of Ad Week, who described them as "the lowest of the low." But as a student of marketing, you can't deny that Go Daddy ads succeed in selling domain names."

    GoDaddy took a 16% share and became number 1 in the industry with an audacious marketing campaign - centered around the single biggest media event in the world - making itself the center of the conversation. Love him or hate him, Parsons teaches every student of business a lesson.

    Re any deeper meanings here, this is a business-oriented website and "killing giants" is a metaphor. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

    @Andy, agreed all around.

  • by Stephen Denny Mon Apr 11, 2011 via web

    Elizabeth: Yes, the entire concept of "winning in the last three feet" - an old retail expression extended in the book to include both online (SEM) and channel evangelism - is a mindset worth cultivating. Fun case studies in Killing Giants animating 3 different ways smart brands have done this. Thanks for your note -

  • by Toby Russell Wed Apr 13, 2011 via web

    Great post and useful. Gives inspiration that even when your the little guy its still possible to get out there and win

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