Competing with the Big Guys: Leveraging a Narrow Niche, the Personal Touch and Agility

Whether you’re a startup looking to break into an existing market, or an existing business looking to branch into a new product or service line, it can be intimidating to survey the competitive environment and find yourself potentially face-to-face with behemoth multinational corporations and Fortune 500 companies. While a mega-competitor could, theoretically, direct its massive resources into forcing out an upstart competitor, there are some ways to compete by exploiting the advantages small can have over large.

Niche Marketing

In an article titled “7 Steps to Defining Your Niche Market,” Entrepreneur Magazine writes “No business—particularly a small one—can be all things to all people. The more narrowly you can define your target market, the better. This process is known as creating a niche and is key to success for even the biggest companies.”

Small businesses competing with larger competitors can focus on identifying specific niche segments of the market you can uniquely serve. It’s not about market share here; it’s about focusing on personalized product and service delivery; about identifying specific ways that what you have to offer is better or of a higher value to customers than what the larger competitors are offering.

Personalized Touch

Very few readers have probably ever felt the personal touch of a Walmart Superstore. That’s not their competitive advantage. Walmart thrives on keeping prices low through process and supply chain efficiencies. This is often true of most large companies that utilize economies of scale.

While small businesses typically can’t hope to achieve similar economies of scale, they can take advantage of the proportionally greater amount of time they typically have to spend on each customer to develop a more personal relationship. Seeking ways to engage with customers, and potential customers, in a variety of highly personalized and focused interactions can clearly convey the distinct benefits of your business’s offerings. That focused and personal service can be a major differentiator for customers who don’t want to feel like they are just a number.

Business Agility

Small businesses are often highly tuned in to their niche market or local community. These businesses, particularly when competing with larger competitors, should be continually monitoring the market and their needs. In addition, focus should be placed on making changes to product and service offerings and communication approaches to remain not only relevant, but also laser-focused.

As already mentioned, large businesses often have advanced supply chains and tried-and-true processes that generate efficiencies and thereby help them keep costs down. The same goes for their ability to use leverage to develop favorable business partnerships with suppliers.

However, these advantages can be disadvantages when the market changes and a large business needs to adapt. It can take years to effect a change in process for a large company. For small businesses, though, these changes can occur in just a few days, even more quickly if we’re talking about a single employee who needs to do something differently. This is what is known as business agility, and it can help small businesses stay one (or two or three) steps ahead of their larger competitors, especially in dynamic markets.


A small business can do much to compete with large competitors. Rather than seeing small size as a weakness, small business owners should see the advantages of competing creatively with their larger competitors. Small businesses have the advantages of being much more narrowly and personally focused on target market needs, having a better understanding of local markets and being able to adapt more quickly to changes in those markets.

What can you do to compete more effectively against your largest competitors?


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