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SMB vs. Large Enterprise: How David Disrupts Goliath

Running a small business doesn’t have to mean you have to sell yourself short when it comes to using new ways to get an edge on the competition.


Among the biggest assets you can have over your larger competitors is the ability to be stealthy. Bringing disruption into an enterprise-level company can be a slow-moving process. When you’re more streamlined and nimble, you have the advantage of being able to more quickly adopt new processes and technologies, which can help you, outflank your larger counterparts.

Following are a few of the ways that you can go after the customers you seek and simultaneously level the competitive playing field by using innovative techniques.

Use evolution to your advantage.

Every product has to evolve over time. For the small guys, the trick is to find an upcoming evolution that the established players don’t have a natural advantage in. Usually it’s one or more of those general categories. A good example is the evolution of the steel mills and the small steel mills vs. the big steel mills described in the book The Innovators Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen.

Christensen discusses the ways in which smaller mills focused and were able to cut costs on some products the big guys couldn’t make enough margin on. Because they could do that, the big guys were even more out of luck because their margins didn’t allow them to fight back, so they ceded the market to those products. Then the small guys moved to the next product and the next.

Personalization is a key disruptive tactic in gaining an advantage over your competitors.

The big companies have to do things that scale. They can’t afford to do special deals for each customer. Little guys can. Reaching out to customers and offering custom features, pricing, or services makes them feel cared for and can help increase your bottom line without spending much money or valuable, limited resources.

One great example of this is a company in Atlanta called Scuf Gaming. They build customizable video game controllers in a market where the big companies usually have gaming hardware locked up. Scuf offers a way you can not only customize and personalize your controller, but your pricing as well as offering affiliate programs, discounts, and price breaks in a highly price-fixed industry.

On top of the curve

Update your shopping cart software or service; you cannot make do with a simple “Buy Now” button any longer. You need live chat, smart recommendations (you know, that “Customers Also Bought” section on Amazon), and other tools that keep your customer engaged and store that knowledge so you learn more about customers to serve them better.

One disruptive tactic not to forget is that “in mystery there is margin”

Meaning that if you know some topic better than anyone else, you can get paid to make it convenient for others—think companies like Uber or Tinder. These days, it shows up as disruptive mostly around breaking down red tape and similar barriers, but it applies almost anywhere.

Above all, keep it simple.

Creating a “one-button push” type of system can be the most disruptive step you can take to defeat your competition. Many larger companies tend to have multiple product lines, complex ordering systems, and less-than-perfect customer service.

Take Filthy Casual, for example. An upcoming, yet increasingly popular clothing brand, it’s a small T-shirt-based company with a simple website offering just a few shirt designs at any given time. The approach creates limited demand for certain designs and keeps their overhead and inventory costs lower. It has also helped to establish a growing, vocal community of customers who then trade limited designs.

Sometimes less is more in business; by creating simple processes for customers, you can create lifetime value and better relationships with them.

In being disruptive against the bigger businesses, you don’t always have to aim for the moon with expensive processes and technologies. Being disruptive can create a sense of connection with customers that the enterprise world can’t offer. Personalization of the customer experience, knowing your industry, and making complex processes easier and more convenient arms you with a slingshot of business tactics to help you defeat the giants in your way.