Guest post by Alan Rich, CEO of expense management software company Chrome River .
1—Find your strengths and level the playing field
In the story of David and Goliath, it’s important to recognize that Goliath lacked vision. Though physically stronger, he lacked the foresight to anticipate future weaknesses. Your competitors may be the same. Do they lack vision? They may lack innovation and be incapable of responding in areas they cannot see.
While Goliath came to battle with a large club and a sword, David realized that in order to be successful, he needed to play to his strengths and Goliath’s weaknesses. Instead of using strength, he used his wit. He brought a slingshot with polished rocks to battle. It may not have been the obvious choice, but it was his way.
Find your strengths and use them in ways your competition can’t. Take notice of their habits, and product issues. Are they slow to update? Are there clear risks to using their product? Don’t mimic them, analyze your strengths and build based off of their mistakes. Going directly head to head with a competitor can be difficult. They didn’t get to where they are by being incapable. Acknowledge that they are really good at what they do, and try to level the playing field by playing around what you’re good at.
2—What is the invisible gnat in your ear?
Show your customers you can solve a problem they didn’t even know they had. Take Google Docs. Historically, Microsoft Word has been the industry standard for word processors. There were few competitors, and even fewer issues with the software. Microsoft implemented updates over the years, but the base product remained the same. But when Google introduced a collaborative editing function, a solution that saved companies huge amounts of time on cooperative projects, companies began flocking to Google Docs. While Google’s product was similar to Microsoft’s, a single feature was enough to shift the market. In 2012, Gartner estimated that Microsoft had a 90% market share in the enterprise market. Four years later , millennials were choosing Google Docs over Microsoft Word as their processor of choice.
Cloud-based productivity software was a solution to a major problem we never knew we had. That is the kind of innovation that you can bring to an area occupied by an industry giant. Show that there are answers to problems your customers never know they had.
Ask yourself, “What is inconvenient? Which areas of my process cause me frustration? To what degree can I make things easier?”
3—Listen to the people who pay you
No one knows you like your customers know you. Communicating effectively and frequently with your current and prospective customers, and finding out what bothers them, is critical in order to invent cost effective, efficient solutions that will differentiate you from your competitors. As a smaller company, it’s easier for you to create an intimate relationship with your consumers. Take advantage of those opportunities and understand what they are looking for.