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Compete With the Big Boys and Win Big

You’ve built a killer business. You’ve worked damn hard.

You love it. Your customers love you. Things are pretty good!

But… you’re not getting anywhere.


You’re being undercut. By the big boys.

Amazon, Wal-Mart, Target, Costco… the list of retail giants goes on.

Your tiny business – the one you’ve poured your heart and soul into – is no match for these guys. You’re being squeezed out of the marketplace.

The worst part? Your product is better! But when Wal-Mart sells something similar for a third the price, your product might as well be invisible.

How does anyone survive in a market filled with such competition? Is it even worth trying anymore?

Heck yes, it is. You’ve just got to know how to compete. There are dozens of success stories about tiny, insignificant startups who were able to beat out the ‘big boys’ – and these are their secrets.
Getting ahead of the big-name retailers isn’t easy. But it isn’t impossible, either.

In fact, one of the most thrilling things about being an entrepreneur is beating out a competitor: especially a big one

Here’s the thing: no company – not even the giant of the industry – can be everything to every one of its customers.

That’s why it’s so important to create a niche.

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When you do the research and identify your most important core customers, you’ll be in a better position than any retail giant to create a unique customer experience.

The trick is to figure out what YOU can do to be exceptional.

Here’s some advice from James Schrager, Clinical Professor of Entrepreneurship and Strategy at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business (someone who clearly knows what he’s talking about!)

When asked how a startup can compete in the modern world, he said, “You’ll need to do something better, cheaper, faster, or amazingly different in a way that won’t put you directly in the crosshairs of a big, powerful company.”

In other words – if you can create something that appeals to a specific market, and you refuse to compromise on quality or authenticity, you have a damn good chance of winning.

You don’t have to be the biggest. You just need to think big

Create Your Niche.

Do something that no one else is doing. By specializing in a certain market, you suddenly become the “expert” of that market. You’re the one who understands what a particular subset of customers want, and you’re showing that you’re prepared to give it to them.

This is a tried-and-true way to beat the big names at their own game. People will seek out YOUR product because they know they can trust you. You’ve pledged to solve their problem, and they appreciate it.

“The secret to a successful niche business is realizing that it isn’t about you. It’s about the customer.” — Glenda Ervin, Vice President, Marketing for Lehman’s Hardware.

Take the story of Dana Schutz, the founder of the Minimalist Baker. She started out with a simple mission: to provide delicious food for vegans and people who can’t tolerate gluten.

Dana recognized the problem that these people had: that it was too hard to make healthy, meat-free and gluten-free food that tasted good.

So, she created creates a lifestyle image of living gluten-free and vegan. She provided recipes so her target market could live this way too.

Dana has now published several books and the Minimalist Baker is known all over the world. And that’s despite the fact that hundreds of supermarkets around the world carry gluten-free and vegan products.

How did she do it? She simply made people say, “I want to live like that. How do I do it?”

When you know who you’re targeting, you can begin to design a strategy for how to market to them so they will find you easily. Once your market has found you, they’ll begin to learn who you are, and (hopefully) start to love what you’re doing.

After that, they’ll naturally want to buy from you.

Remember – as a small business, you’re more flexible and better able to make decisions that help you meet the needs of your market. As your customers’ needs change, so can you. A corporate giant can’t do that as easily.

Quality should be your first priority.

There’s no substitute for quality. When you make it your priority, your business will grow naturally.

If your customers can’t trust your product, they won’t buy it. Millions of potential sales are lost when a brand doesn’t bother to make a deep connection with its prospective buyers.

But when you gain that confidence, you’ll also gain loyalty. That alone will give you the freedom to do more with your business, such as increasing your prices.

The quality of your services and merchandise should be the underpinning of your business model.

After all, if customers wanted a cheap product that will only last a few uses, they’d just go to Wal-Mart!


Customers know when something is authentic and when it’s not. They’re quickly turned off by the fake stuff.

If you want to win out against the big boys, you have to know who you are and what your brand represents.

Consider the brand like TOMS shoes. These guys have an authentic brand story that has become the reason people buy from them.

While traveling in Argentina, Blake Mycoskie was so moved by the hardships faced by children growing up without shoes, he created TOMS Shoes, a company that would match every pair of shoes purchased with a new pair of shoes for a child in need.

With the tagline, “one for one”, TOMS donates a pair of shoes every time they sell a pair.

Simple, but powerful. And authentic. TOMS have proven to their customers that they exist to improve lives.

When you build an authentic business, you build a story that creates a connection with your customers. All you have to do is tell it in a way that your customers can relate to you, and understand you.

Then, they’ll love you.

Few things are more important than being able to engage with a brand that makes you feel good.

In a world full of competition, where being big and loud is often equated with being the best, smaller businesses have to work hard to make their voice heard. But once you change your customers’ perspective, you’ve won.

Specialize in a specific market, put quality first and devote yourself to delivering an authentic product or service.

Other businesses are doing it. Follow their example, take on the big boys – and you’ll win big.