We all learned on the playground in elementary school that it's never a good idea to take on the big kid. That first physics lesson we learned—that larger objects push harder than smaller ones—reinforced that notion in our rapidly developing, dodgeball-obsessed minds.
But was that really an accurate lesson? After all, ordinary-sized David defeated giant-sized Goliath with nothing more than a pebble and a slingshot. So why can't you? The answer is, You can! But to effectively beat the giant in your industry, you'll need to focus on these five things.
1. Establish your brand
As a startup, establishing your brand is the first and most important step in building a business. Coming in as a new player, you will encounter uncertainty about your brand from potential consumers who are unfamiliar with your name, products, quality, differentiation, etc. But you can use that to your advantage.
Humans have an innate curiosity and desire to explore. If you disagree, watch a young child be entertained for hours upon hours by ordinary objects, such as kitchen utensils or cell phones. Even though your target market has most likely grown out of playing with common objects for hours, that curiosity remains.
How can human curiosity benefit your brand? Draw on that human trait by positioning your business as something new and unique. Don't give up all of your information up front; catch your targets' interest and make them wonder. Their curiosity will take over and subconsciously motivate them to seek, search, and investigate, which will ultimately drive traffic to your website. Then, it's your job to get them to stay.
So, how do you keep the market share you've gained?
2. Build trust
Customers will not give you their money if they do not trust you. As a new company, you'll have a hard time building trust via past buying experiences, because your target market has likely never before bought from you. So the next best way to build immediate trust is to identify with your customers on a personal level. Be transparent. As a small business, you actually have the advantage; you aren't viewed as a faceless corporate monster. Use that advantage to develop closeness with your customers, and you can bet that they will multiply.
3. Do something different
Whatever you do, don't try to enter a market dominated by a major player by using the exact same business model as the Goliath. Customers' brand loyalty to the "big kid" will quickly destroy your business. But finding a way to improve or diversify the market will create an avenue for you to compete.
For example, my company created a new pay-per-click (PPC) billing model that was completely unique in the automotive industry. Having a unique offering allowed us to quickly develop strong relationships with suppliers and create the critical mass necessary to start driving traffic (pun intended) to Netcars.com, our website.
But what if being different doesn't work? Another benefit you have as a small, upcoming competitor is flexibility. Exxon Mobil might not be able to change its business model overnight, but Mom and Pop's Convenience Store can. So listen to customer feedback, integrate it, and adapt.
4. Dive in
We've all been in a situation where it was necessary to "test the water." When I go to the pool, I dip my toe in first to see how cold the water is. But that's not going to work in a market dominated by a major player.
When you dip your toe into a big pool, you hardly create ripples. On the other hand, doing a cannonball into the pool would create major waves all around you.
When taking on a major player, then, your goal is to disrupt the market—to do a cannonball into the market. So, make your entrance a massive push. Market like hell. Prepare for growth. Staff early. Get the right people on board, and then figure out where they fit into your business as the ripples grow.
After all, you get only one shot to launch.
5. Be patient
Penetrating a concentrated market isn't a game of Jenga. (In that game, pulling out one block could cause an entire tower to topple.) Instead, making an impact on the market is more of a marathon, not a sprint. Cheesy analogies aside, don't expect to bring down the competition overnight.
Keep your brand consistent and unique, continue to innovate, and challenge the status quo. Time will bring results.
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You'll still have to find your own pebble, but I hope this information will be the slingshot you need to take on the Goliath that your company faces. Happy hunting!