Think big, act small. Such a simple notion that many startups get wrong – yes, me included once upon a time. When we are entering a market, we all think that we can’t really show that we are just one-man band behind our brands. You have to look professional, the general advice is. And yes, of course you have to show the world that you mean business, through being professional or giving the right signals that you are a professional business. How else would you build up trust with your customers?
But, like with everything else, there is also the other side. What you want to do is to find the right balance. So stop reading MBA books (to a certain extend – only take the good stuff from them) and act small. Your advantage is that you are small and flexible. If you are trying to compete with bigger brands then see your power in your size. Don’t try to imitate them or copy them in the way you run your business. That will lead you nowhere. Start working on your own thing and tell your story. That’s your best marketing tool. Tell us why you exist and what good you are doing. Have a strong long-term vision and dare to dream big.
Here are some ideas for embracing being small:
- PERSONAL CUSTOMER SERVICE
Build your customer base personally, face to face or over the phone. Embrace the power of word of mouth, which big brands can’t rely on anymore. They are way past that stage.
- OFFER SOMETHING SPECIAL
Pamper each customer by paying attention to details. Think about unique packaging ideas, give them something extra. For example, can you perhaps pack your product in a small bag, which can be used in everyday life? Or, can you partner with a chocolate brand and provide small chocolate samples with each order? Or how about a lavender pouch? Think about your customer and wow them with something unexpected and useful.
- TEST AND ADJUST
Being small gives you the opportunity to make mistakes when you’re not under the radar. Embrace it by testing and adjusting. Ask for feedback, good and bad. Not many people will want to give the negative feedback, (and I find that not many founders even want to hear it, they are very defensive – which of course is understandable, but being stuck in your own thoughts and processes is not a great attitude to have) so you need to ask the right questions to get it. Improve accordingly, don’t dwell on your mistakes and move on fast.
- TAKE INSPIRATION FROM OTHERS IN YOUR MARKET BUT DO YOUR OWN THING
Study businesses in your market, big and small, and take inspiration from them but then create your own version. There is no one way of doing things. Find what suits your brand and “do your own thing”. Don’t be afraid to do things which are not “prescribed” by your industry. Be the disrupter, the forward-thinker, go against the norm if necessary.
- Don’t act like you need to invest in everything brand new. If you haven’t got the budget, don’t feel the pressure that you NEED to get this or that. Think creatively rather than wasting money on materials, stock that you don’t know it will sell, or any unnecessary tools and professional services (apart from a good accountant – everyone should have one!), which “suppose” to help you. Always evaluate and prioritise your costs and investments.
- Don’t assume that when you launch, it’s going to be an instant hit. That’s a (big) business mentality, which can only work once you get established in the market.
- Give up on the idea of going into legal disputes with bigger businesses or others who imitate and copy your products. There is no point of you trying to win a lost battle. Move on by staying ahead of the game. They are what they are – copycats will always copy, never innovate.
- Don’t listen to bad advice. These days there is so much advice out there. Take only what you feel it’s valuable and discard everything else. What works for them might not work for you. Listen to your gut and act accordingly, which sometimes means going against that advice.
- Don’t go into collaborations or partnerships with self-interest. I see this around me surprisingly and shockingly quite often. Everybody says they are up for collaborations but not many walk the walk. Have a clear plan of action and decide on how everyone within the collaboration will promote it. Don’t just say that you’re up for helping each other and then you don’t keep your word.
- Don’t be afraid to fail in your projects. Fail and learn fast. Same as with flexibility, speed is your advantage too. The quicker you find out that something doesn’t work, the quicker you discover what does work. There might be many products you develop or projects you add to your portfolio before you hit the jackpot.
Hope this helps. Kxx
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