Small Businesses Can Compete Against the Big Guys

October 22, 2019

A question frequently asked is, “Can a privately-owned small business or SME compete against a national or multinational company?” Researching the subject of small business/SME will reveal that this segment is the backbone of any economy throughout the world. With this being the case, then it must be possible and practical for small businesses and SMEs to effectively compete in any marketplace.

Whether a business is a small retailer competing against a national chain, an independently owned service business competing against a national service provider, or a small locally owned manufacturer competing with a multi-national company importing foreign made goods, the solution to competing profitably is not attempting to go head-to-head with these larger businesses. Small businesses will never win the battle with this combat style approach. A small business will never have an equal marketing budget, broad base of suppliers, distribution network, lowest cost of goods, or number of employees compared to a much larger, national competitor.

Small businesses, therefore, must compete in ways that are different and normally “out-of-reach” for their national or multi-national counterparts. Customers and clients thrive on feeling special. Rather than a small business trying to compete on a level playing field with larger competitors, the goal should be to make the playing field “not so level” by taking a different approach to business operations.

Customer Centric

What can be lost when dealing with a very large company can be gained by dealing with a small business or SME. Adopting a customer centric approach in which a business strives to produce a positive experience for each and every customer through enhanced service before, during, and after a sale can be a factor to overshadow national and multi-national companies operating without the same philosophy. Developing a customer centric approach might involve listening to customers, learning about their needs, gathering data on customer experiences, anticipating needs, building relationships, being accessible, or following-up after a sale. Being customer centric and providing excellent customer service is basically treating customers with appreciation…as if, they are the reason the business is in existence!

Adapting a customer centric approach, of course, does not come automatically. It must be instilled in employees. They must be taught how to treat customers. Small businesses can excel in this category and far outshine a larger competitor when owners and employees understand that customers are the sole reason a business opens its doors every day.

Specialized Services

Although it is not possible for many large national companies to offer specialized services, small businesses can do this quite easily depending on the products or services offered. Products may be specifically designed or modified in some way to meet particular customer requests. Services, likewise, may be tailor-made in order to be more adaptable to exact customer needs. In addition to acquiring and retaining customers because of specialized products or services offered, pricing can also be increased as customers are willing to pay more for differentiated and specialty offerings.


A competitive advantage is not achieved by simply meeting the competition by being the same. The marketplace rewards businesses that demonstrate they are better or different than their competitors. Small businesses are rewarded for uniqueness whether its quality, pricing, options, servicing, delivery methods, etc. These unique qualities can and should be promoted in marketing campaigns.  


The marketplace is a fast-changing environment and a small business can use this to its advantage. With social media, research capabilities, and communication through technology, a small business can make quick decisions to adapt to changing markets. Avoiding multiple levels of organizational approval, an owner can decide in an instant to change products or services, promotions, marketing variables, pricing, or warranties. Whatever is important to the marketplace at any particular moment in time, a small business can rapidly adapt enhancing its ability to increase sales and net profit.

A Small Business Can Compete

So, a small business can compete with the big guys and win, but there must be a distinction between the two. A small business owner or manager must understand what is necessary to gain a competitive edge over a larger competitor. The playing field might be the same, but the rules can certainly be different.


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