Wednesday, May 06, 2009

A Strategy for Big vs. Small Business Competitors

Yesterday I kvetched about a Forbes article that talked about your classic Small (Neil Moodley) vs Big (Google) shooting match. While the case study is interesting, I'm still not quite sure how the Forbes article really helps tackle the issue. Contrast this to Malcom Gladwell's How David Beat Goliath, which covers the same ground and comes up with a clever strategy.

In typical Gladwell fashion, lots of interesting examples are brought up. The running storyline of Vivek Ranadivé's daughter's little-league like Basketball team is terrific. Like the story behind the A11 football offense, it shows how outgunned teams can in fact be victorious, and of course, how the lessons of the field can translate to business.

The strategy Gladwell suggests is actually pretty simple:

Study the rules, and then find a way to play the game that leaves your opponent completely off balance.

A sort of break the rules without breaking the rules. It's a simple, but brilliant concept. And if you're a small business, it's worth studying thoroughly.

So what should Niel Moodley have done? Well, certainly Google pulled the rug out from under him, by breaking the rules and offering a typically paid service for free. Point to Google. Now it's could be his turn, what rule does Google have that he could break? Maybe that Google's big and you can't talk to a human? Or maybe that Google's service works for the masses, while his service can be highly customized for your business.

It's definitely not a trivial exercise to find the right move to make, but the outcome can be more than worth it.

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