The bull as an animal is strangely hardwired in its brain to not attack, react or recognize anything below a certain height as an enemy. So to illustrate this, when a group of people walks uprights towards it, it is provoked to attack. But if they all suddenly duck down around an equal low height, it also suddenly stays still. In metaphor, that is analogy of how big companies fail. Big business finds it hard to react, as they usually do not see these smaller businesses coming. In essence don’t be a bull, learn to adapt and take shape according to the type of competition.
This article is about giants and underdogs; it describes big businesses as giants and small businesses as the underdogs. Giants are not known to have the best eyesight, plus they move too slowly. SMEs are faster, we should learn to leverage on the speed that comes with being small sized.
When you sit at presentations by reps representing bigger firms, you often hear “It’s against our policy” or at most, “let me confirm with my boss and I’d get back to you”. Clients don’t want to hear that. But its inevitable if that rep is from a bigger business. This is where smaller businesses can leverage to knock them out. Speed! Most big businesses fail for reacting too slowly to market dynamics. Blame it on their size, larger organograms and policies. They fall from not thinking like small businesses with speed. On the other hand, when you are a small business, don’t be a small business with big business problems. Inversely speaking also, small businesses also fail for not thinking like big businesses in its vision. Small business should master how to be guerrillas. Guerrilla strategy is about taking pride in your seemingly disadvantage position, enjoying your small size and leveraging on it. A razor blade is very sharp but it can’t cut a tree the same way an axe can’t cut your hair. Everything and everyone has their own role so never look down on anyone except off course you admire their shoes!
Dear start up, never be ashamed of your small position or to despise your small beginnings. People that mind don’t matter, and people that matter don’t mind. It’s okay to work from home, it’s okay to share an office, it’s okay to market one on one, to nicely ask for testimonials and referrals. It’s okay to say that you have a lean team. Take pride in your efficiency. As long as you deliver on what is expected with a warm disposition, clients won’t mind, especially if you at least project that you’re growing. If you’re big, try to not act like you’re too big for a client, or that you have overgrown your clients. I mean consciously avoid bureaucracy by size; try to sometime create smaller units to retain intimacy. In business, when you are a small business and don’t seem to have the capacity to go head to head with the big firms, what do you do?
As the underdog firm in your industry with a lean budget, Disruptive Innovation, Flank Attack, Segmentation and Guerrilla Marketing Warfare are your best bets. Market Segmentation simply means picking a sub-set of the entire marketplace that you can organize your sales efforts around. As a small business stop trying to cover the whole market, stop trying to be in front of bigger businesses. As an SME, you don’t go head to head with a bigger brand, instead you take advantage of their size, which makes them slow and uneasy to focus deeply and uneasy to respond swiftly. Be the opposite of all of these. Another thing to do is to look at their entire market scope and then take a smaller but uncontested market size of that large space. And then you concentrate your forces there. In other words, map the entire market and then take only a small section of the market, and own it. Concentrate all your forces on it till you own that small portion totally, and then gradually expand that section.
Guerrilla Marketing is sort of like a game of hide and seeks. Guerrilla strategy is how terrorists attack their nations (they take a smaller part of the map and then concentrate on that space e.g Boko Haram, really is not going head to head with the Nigerian Army. Rather, they keep hiding in a small neglected part of the north, around the Sambisa forest while from their hideouts, they are attacking consistently and very passionately to the point of paying with their lives). There are many good examples we can get from bad deeds, even Boko Haram. One of them is to not oversell a product, instead sell an ideology. Also, don’t sell a product, sell the benefits; just like the saying goes, don’t sell the insecticides; sell the idea of creating dead mosquitoes.
The guerrilla strategy has always been a game changer for upcoming business. In other words do a SWOT analysis of your competitor and then capitalize on their W (Weakness). Guerrilla strategy is about taking advantage of what bigger firms are not doing well. This is usually most time around the areas of client service relationship, speed and intimacy. For example, in Nigeria, a small departmental store brand can decide to build small supermarkets around every big Shoprite but with better convenience in check out (bearing in mind that parking space and check out time from the counters of Shoprite is irritatingly slow). Another case study is what the Chinese phones with two SIM cards did over the bigger known brands with one SIM card slot for their phones in Nigeria (they provided convenience since with it, you may not need to carry two phones which is convenient and also cheaper). Guerrilla Marketing must focus on low-cost and unconventional marketing tactics that delivers convenience with maximum results.
A personal example is when we started at Hexavia (Which is a business and management consulting firm), my dream was to consult for big firms, But the reality check is that bigger firms have bureaucracy that won’t even let your proposal get to the top. Really, we wanted to be the foremost management consultants in Nigeria, but the fact is we had no chance with the likes of McKinsey, PWC, KPMG, Ernst and Young and Deloitte to contend with. Looking at that, we knew we didn’t stand a good chance. So, what we did was to not venture in that same market place (that is, consulting for big firms), instead we went for those that couldn’t afford those big consultancy firms and those that needed to deal more up close with their lead consultants, in other words the neglected, which was the small businesses. We started up from there and today’s we consulted for loads of big businesses including multinationals like Lufthansa, National brands like the Central Bank of Nigeria and big Nigerian Businesses too. We worked out way up using Guerrilla Strategy.
It’s important for small business to take pride in their small size and not to keep making excuses for being small and having no resources. Whether life or business, once again, it is not what we don’t have that’s stops us; it’s the little we have but don’t know how to use. Big Businesses at the top of their food chains have a dilemma which small businesses can take advantage of. There’s a saying that it is easier to get to the top than to stay there. This time, I disagree. In marketing strategy once at the top, a company can use economy of scale to reduce their production cost and then use the power of its leadership position to bully the market with lower pricing. Don’t play that price war fight with bigger firms. Your antidote should be guerrilla marketing; in this case personalization and intimate selling.
Don’t underrate yourself. Don’t try to adapt yourself to the bull. Bernard Shaw once put it: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man. It’s a gift to be an SME with incredibly and an almost unreasonable drive. In relation to bigger firms, you have less bureaucracy (and that bureaucracy gets bigger with bigger firms as it keeps expanding to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy). For you without it, it means more speed and accessibility to your customers; what do you with it. I look forward to developing Guerrilla Strategies that stands you out.
Written By Eizu Uwaoma,
About Eizu Uwaoma
Eizu Uwaoma is the founder & lead strategist of Hexavia, a business, brand, training & management consulting firm. Through his weekly features nationwide on radio, he connects with more than 5 million professionals, personally interacting with over 500 top executives & has intervened in over 50 businesses. He has a proficient gift, skill and experience in enterprise development. He is an authority in brand, human capital and business training as well as project consultancy.
He runs the Decoded, a monthly hangout for professionals in all major Nigerian cities facilitates at the Hexavian Masterclass and is the founder of the Hexavian Business Club.