Two ways start-ups can outperform the big fish

By: Matt Bird

Date: 15 March 2011

There are very few certainties in life, but you’ll encounter one each time you start a new business – you will be smaller than your competitors. Whether by staff numbers, physical space or market share, unless you have a completely unique product you will be playing catch-up.

But this supposed shortcoming presents two opportunities. Take them and you’ll have a selling point your competition will struggle to match – agility and personal service.


Nothing hinders a business like size. Much like the giant boxer undone by his faster, smaller opponent, a start-up can take advantage of market movements far quicker than larger competitors. They often have their hands tied by hierarchy, limited by the fact they cannot make decisions without approval from “on high”.

A start-up will often be an individual/close-knit team trusted in their roles, with freedom in their responsibility.

It could involve writing a great new guide in response to a design flaw of a top-selling product or emailing an offer to trump a sudden price rise. It could even stretch to personally contacting a small number of individuals affected by a very niche item.

Whatever is necessary – you can get there first. First to market. First into customers’ minds. First to the rewards.

Personal service

You can’t help but feel like just another number when you buy from large business, which is fine and dandy until something goes wrong.

They can employ hundreds of customer service staff on the phone and dedicated instore support, but you always know they’re tied by a pre-determined script and unable to truly grasp your frustrations and how it impacts your life at an individual level.

Strip this scenario of size and you have a personal experience that can make a customer feel treasured and comfortable – even when a problem is encountered. The ability to ask for staff by name, or something as simple as being remembered when you get back in touch, is incredibly valuable to consumers in today’s technology-driven world.

If you ensure everything is in place for a customer, from pre-purchase information to post-purchase support, you can really provide a worthwhile experience. This, in turn, guarantees that the word-of-mouth you crave will spread, and you will not remain a small start-up for long.

Matt Bird of printer cartridge supplier, StinkyInk


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