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How startups can compete with large businesses

It’s a problem for the smaller business, and similarly a start-up business: it’s difficult to sell your products or services because you’re constantly up against larger, more established competitors.

It all comes down to perception really. People usually buy from big, established, well-known companies because they assume them to be the safer choice. So, how do you get your foot through a potential client’s door, whilst also using your elbow to push away the big boys? It’s easy. There are only four considerations.

1. Credibility

First off, you need to be able to demonstrate your company’s credibility. You may not be very well known, or have been around very long, so a potential client will, naturally, be suspicious. There are three things you can do.

I. Create case studies of clients who currently use your products or services. These could be in written or video form, but need to be ready to show your potential customer.

II. Ask current clients to be a reference for you and to give a reference to any potential clients.

III. Offer a free return to your potential customers if they are not completely satisfied. You could also tell them that they wouldn’t be expected to pay at all if they were not completely happy. People are more willing to take a chance on you if their money is not at risk.

2. Product

It goes without saying that you need to ensure your product is of a high quality. However, you also need to make sure it has enough features to compete with those of large organisations. Your product should also be aesthetically pleasing and have a USP. It’s worth spending time looking at your product objectively. Ask for feedback and take on board any advice for improvement. Your product has to stand up against those produced by larger organisations. You need to ensure that it can take on the competition.

3. Service

A number of large companies are well known for their excellent customer service. They pride themselves on being able to offer such a high quality experience for their customers that it becomes a strong selling point. As a small business, or start-up, you will need to demonstrate that your customer service is at least as good as theirs, if not better. Put yourself in your potential client’s shoes and consider what sort of customer service you would demand.

4. Price

There are two ways that you can challenge the ‘big players’ on price.

I. You can be cheaper than the competition, so that your clients see they are getting incredibly good value from your business.

II. Conversely, if you want to give the impression that your product/service is better, or of higher value than that of your competitors, then you could purposely charge more than them. It’s rather in the way that Stella Artois suggests quality by marketing itself as “reassuringly expensive”!

As a small or start-up business, it’s easy to be intimidated by bigger organisations. If you’re struggling with competition, then perhaps it’s time to embrace it. See it as something that will encourage you to strive, improve and develop. What’s more, if you don’t keep moving forwards, competition may eventually be your downfall. In the words of Victor Kiam, “in business, the competition will bite you if you keep running, if you stand still, they will swallow you”.

Heather Foley is a consultant at www.etsplc.com, an HR consultancy and technology specialist.

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Heather Foley

Heather Foley

Heather Foley is a consultant at www.etsplc.com. ETS has been a partner to some of the world’s most respected companies since 1989, delivering specialist consultancy and leading edge technology in the following areas: employee research and engagement, leadership development, 360° feedback, performance management, and talent and succession planning. ETS takes a bespoke approach to every project to ensure that all clients get their ideal survey solution. ETS doesn't have templates and nothing is off-the-shelf. Every programme created is specific to the client, ensuring real value is delivered.

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