SME Growth: A Survival Guide to Make it Against the Big Players


Jenna BunnellSenior Manager, Content Marketing, Dialpad

Friday, December 23, 2022

Big businesses have big budgets and loud marketing, and they can push their products nationally or even internationally; thus, for many small businesses, it can feel impossible to compete. However, there are many ways to stand out boldly in a sea of giants.

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SME Growth: A Survival Guide to Make it Against the Big Players
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Now, imagine owning a burger van in a city center full of McDonald’s and Burger King outlets. Or being a smaller ecommerce platform such as DHgate in an industry of ecommerce titans such as Amazon and Alibaba.

What would you do to fight your way into the market? Would you copy what they do or make yourself unique?

It may feel like it’s pointless to try and compete, but actually, small businesses can have huge leverage in situations like this.

Read on to discover exactly what this means, and take advantage of the 8-step survival guide outlined below to stand tall alongside the big players.

Step 1: Get your product right

In many cases, big business means mass production and doesn’t always equal quality or uniqueness. Small businesses have the facility to be more bespoke, more in touch with customers, and quicker to move with current trends.

In the case of the burger van above, you could focus on serving high-quality gourmet burgers with a range of toppings that differ from the standard mayo/ketchup/cheese offerings at the fast food chains.

As a small business owner, you have a great opportunity to get to know your customers and adapt quickly to feedback, trends and requests and fill gaps in the market that big businesses can’t do quickly enough.

Step 2: Have a strong social media strategy

One of the most cost-effective ways of putting your name out there is by creating organic reach through social media. Creating organic reach can showcase your brand’s personality. You can use humor or wit and add some real personality to engage followers. Best of all, this part is free if you’re prepared to commit the time.

Pay-per-click ads, available on social media sites such as Facebook, offer affordable advertising opportunities that can be honed to specifically target your market.

With trends on TikTok and Instagram reels gaining global exposure, you can even take advantage of video technology to engage customers.

Combining social media strategies can give you a low-cost boost to rival big businesses.

Step 3: Pride yourself on excellent customer service

There are two basic elements to growing a business:

  1. Acquiring new customers
  2. Keeping them

Retention is an important part of any business’s growth strategy. You won’t grow if you lose clients as fast as you acquire them. Effective customer service is essential as it plays a pivotal role in keeping people happy.

Where big businesses often turn to automation such as chatbots and automated customer service lines, small businesses have the opportunity to speak directly to clients, resolve issues in a quick and friendly manner and maintain that personal touch that people still value.

To ensure phones calls are always answered, you could integrate virtual call center software into your strategy so that they are always answered professionally, even when you can’t physically answer yourself. This is a great way to compete effectively against big businesses.

Part of having a strong customer service strategy involves maintaining the same high standards as large businesses do, especially where corporate compliance is concerned.

Step 4: Have a customer loyalty program

Touching on the retention marketing mentioned above, having a customer loyalty program can keep customers wanting to come back. Even happy customers shop elsewhere, so having an incentive to bring them back is a great strategy to keep them. If you operate on a face-to-face level, incorporate a local business angle into your reward scheme.

Around half of businesses don’t offer a loyalty or reward program, but 75% of customers enjoy using them.

Step 5: Design a digital presence to rival the big guys

Being a small business doesn’t mean that you can’t have a professional online presence. There are so many tools and websites available where you can create a free logo, web design, professional digital assets and even the best digital business card of your own that look just as good as the ones big businesses use.

Even if you lack the skills or confidence, it’s not impossible to have a website built affordably.

Step 6: Gather customer feedback and adapt

Gleaning the thoughts and opinions of your customers and adapting quickly to improve your product or service is an advantage smaller businesses can have over larger enterprises. Large businesses have a chain of command and protocols to follow, whereas small business owners can make changes quickly.

Gaining customer feedback can be done in a variety of ways such as from reviews, verbal or email feedback to a manager, polls and social media comments. This can be a lot of noise for a large business to sift through. However, on a smaller scale, feedback can be more easily analyzed and acted upon.

Try implementing an effective feedback loop to ensure you have a good structure in place for gathering and using customer feedback to improve your product or service.

Step 7: Be involved in your local community

One thing that’s difficult for larger businesses to do is to make links and build bridges in the local community. You may not have the budget to be on national TV or build your own space rocket, but you do have the ability to push yourself forward on a local level.

Are there local, non-competitive businesses that compliment your own (and vice versa) with which you could affiliate yourselves? If the answer is yes, get out there and form those links. Other ways to become part of your local community is to work with charities, attend local networking groups or events, or deliver talks in local schools.

Most importantly, don’t be afraid to talk about what you do, find out a bit more about the people in your local area and join the dots.

Step 8: Don’t be scared to think global

Global commerce isn’t just for large enterprises. If you establish a global reach online, there’s no reason to avoid this market.

Large businesses may have offices or factories across the world, but with technology like Zoom, drop-ship and print on demand, there are options for SMEs to enter into strong competition in this market.

A great example of this is the use of a small business PBX phone system; technology such as this can allow you to work from anywhere and hire from across the globe, making the undertaking of global commerce a very real possibility.

Final thoughts

The story of David and Goliath is familiar to most, but if we take one thing away from this biblical story, it’s that being smaller doesn’t necessarily make you any worse off… As long as you identify your business’s strengths and work smart, that is.

While larger enterprises have big budgets for national or global marketing campaigns, smaller businesses can work hard to engage customers via social media and create relationships and followings that are stronger and more meaningful. This could be on a local level as well as on a global reach, if you work hard to build your brand and communicate what you stand for.

Having a strong bond with customers and listening to their feedback while being able to adapt to it and to any local, national or social media trends that crop up in a quick and efficient manner are important skills and elements that many large businesses can’t develop as quickly and effectively as smaller businesses.

Use being small to your advantage!

Jenna Bunnell

Senior Manager, Content Marketing, Dialpad

Jenna is the Senior Manager for Content Marketing at Dialpad, an AI-incorporated cloud-hosted unified communications system that provides valuable call details for business owners and sales representatives. She is driven and passionate about communicating a brand’s design sensibility and visualizing how content can be presented in creative and comprehensive ways. She has also written for sites such as eHotelier and PayTabs.


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