Competitors or Choices?

As a small business – indeed home based – provider of coaching and social media consulting services, I doubt I’m unique in feeling sometimes that I am at a disadvantage in competing against bigger companies, with more people, deeper pockets, big brands, often with “incumbency rights” with clients I would like to have.

So today, reading an article in Computerworld Feb 6, I read something that resonated.

William ‘whurley’ Hurley, from software company BMC talking.

When you go to a customer, they don’t see project A and project B, and the Big 4 and Little 4 as competitors. They see them as choices, so you really have to put yourself in that customer mind-set.

And of course, anyone who has ever worked in or dealt with a large organization – i.e. each of us – knows that big organizations are not always better at providing what the customer wants for their particular, current need.

Photo by jpsdq

Nor is it simply an either/or, big or small question. Where size or ability to scale are needed it will often make sense for home based, solo service providers to form strategic alliances or buy into a franchise that allows them to still offer the personal service some customers will still be looking for.

Some new mantras:

  • I’m not a solo service provider, I’m a choice
  • They’re not competitors, they’re choices
  • Really listening to what the customer wants is working smarter, not harder

Any tips or mantras you would like to add?

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About Des Walsh

I show business owners and other professionals how to navigate the social media maze and use LinkedIn effectively. I'm an author, speaker, business coach, social media strategist and LinkedIn specialist. Connect with me on LinkedIn, Google Plus and Twitter. And to stay in the loop, get my weekly Social Business Bites.


  1. @Sam:
    I’m not sure I get the point you are making, in terms of what I posted. Seems to me to be a different conversation. What I was endeavouring to say was that small, especially sole operator, firms can think of the bigger companies in their field as competitors, then lie awake at night wondering if they, the small ones, are about to be crushed. Or they (we) can think of those companies as just other choices customers have. One of the advantages the smaller firm often has is to be more flexible, able to adapt and change more quickly. I’m not clear on how cost cutting and savings in a business could lead to more flexibility. Less, I would have thought. Care to explain?

  2. Isn’t the customer always right? I they want something different to whats already available, should a business cater for their requirements? Big organizations may not deviate from a standard services provided because that’s not always deemed profitable. Tough economic times are driving cost cutting and savings in all areas of business, and this could lead to more flexibility. Money is money, as long as its profitable from a fiscal or reputation stand point.

  3. What Des is saying is how to win the heart of customers, change their purchasing habits and turn that into repeated business, I think that’s awesome. Having an online business is indeed a matter of persistence over years and sometimes lottery. Having the right product is the essence too. In terms of marketing Gurus, we have seen and will see so many. One of the ones that I have tested and followed(appreciated as well) is Aaron Brandon, he seems to know what he is talking about, what you guys feeling about him? Also, how long do you think it takes on average to set up an online business?


  4. I agree with Tom, but I think persistance is the most important as many people online will tell you it took them years to start making real money, at least the large majority of them and it doesn’t come easily as so many gurus and/or wannabees want to make it sound like.


  5. Tom Lindstrom says:

    Hi Des! It is always a good thing to have choices, but when it comes to making money online it comes down to attitude and persistance.

  6. I evolved from a “Goliath” type firm and needed their reputation and door opening abilities.

    Alas, today my entrepreneurial self is not only “David”, but also standing on shoulders of my knowledge, experience and wisdom which are in essence big as “Goliath”.

    “Jack be nimble, Jack be quick”…I can compete, excuse me…be a more than viable choice to a prospective client.

  7. Great post – thank you! I firmly believe that it all comes down to our attitude and I love the idea of thinking in terms of choices, rather than competitors.

  8. Christine Parfitt says:

    Hi Des,

    No particular tips to add. One thing that did occur to me when reading your post is that I’m getting better at recognising the type of people who are likely to choose me (solo consultant).

    My best clients are individual entrepreneurial types themselves who are already successful and who are looking for another edge.

    I occasionally do some work in partnership with a bigger company. They tend to get corporate clients and I think that the person making the choice in these cases would feel as though they were going out on a limb choosing an independent consultant.

    So, I guess what I’m saying is that I’m picking my battles these days when it comes to getting new clients. I know when I’m more likely to be chosen.

  9. Des – Wonderful post. As a ’boutique shop’ I can relate. Appreciate how you turned it around to a great positive. How about this one for your list –
    Smaller is more nimble than bigger and can respond faster.


  1. […] Comparing Yourself with Your Competition Filed under: Juggling Work and Family, Recommendations, Small Business, Work from Home — smallbusinessdiva @ 10:00 am Tags: choice, competition Yesterday I read a great tip for small business owners on the Thinking Home Business blog. […]