Five ways to compete with a dominant brand
Challenging a leading brand in any market is a difficult task for even the most experienced marketer, but it is not an entirely unprecedented situation and there are techniques that have worked well in the past, according to Martin Turner, managing director for FreeIndex.
For example, the launch of the Windows 7 phone into a smartphone market that is dominated by the Apple iPhone has sent two of the world's biggest brands, Microsoft and Apple, into direct competition once again. This 'David and Goliath' battle for a very lucrative market represents - admittedly on a much larger scale - the ongoing struggle that small businesses face when they try to launch into any already competitive market.
So how can a newcomer or a smaller brand compete with an existing dominant brand? Well, according to Turner, there is no simple answer, particularly for small businesses that do not have Microsoft's level of resources at their disposal.
However, the intelligent use of data and resources can be formidable. Facebook was a young pretender to the might of Myspace, Bebo and Friends Reunited only five years ago, but it has since put larger competitors behind it through sheer accessibility, engaging features, and a deep understanding of its user base.
"Businesses launching a new product should be aware that there isn't a magic solution that can make them competitive, but here I've suggested some tips that can help a business begin to work toward challenging the dominant brand in its marketplace", said Turner. For example:
- Don't be scared Everybody starts somewhere, including every large brand you see today. Have confidence that the product or service you are bringing to market, while not well known (right now), offers an alternative solution to the dominant brand.
- Differentiate your product or service Businesses need to give customers a reason why they should choose their product or service over an established brand. The strongest ways to differentiate are through product innovation, price and service. For example, FreeIndex itself competed successfully with market leaders by offering a free online business information directory, coupled with an innovative quote request service.
- Leverage social media Big brands have large advertising budgets, and traditionally have held advantage over small businesses by being able to 'shout the loudest'. But this situation has changed dramatically with the advent of social networks such as Twitter and Facebook. These sites provide small businesses with a cost effective means of communicating with their target audience to quickly build brand awareness, loyalty and advocates. Also consider using blogs, forums and business information sites to raise a business' profile and engage and interact directly with customers.
- Be flexible Much like a lightweight boxer facing up to a heavyweight, a small business' greatest asset is speed. A smaller business has the ability to react quickly to changing environments and adapt its business model to meet customer needs on a day-to-day basis. Bigger brands are similar to slow-turning oil tankers, with many layers of decision makers, before a position can be alerted. Small businesses should make the most of this advantage, and like their lightweight counterpart, keep themselves one step ahead of the heavyweight rival.
- Provide great customer service Many large brands have poor reputations with their customers because they are slow to react to their concerns. Smaller businesses can take advantage of this by making sure service levels are second to none. Have a complaint system in place, respond quickly and turn issues into a positive legacy for the business. Some businesses now employ social networks to address customer concerns, and this can be another great tool to help compete with big brands.
"Small businesses can compete with the leader in a marketplace, but to do this they must seek advantages and exploit them where they can," concluded Turner. "If customers perceive that a business offers added value over a big brand, it can breed lasting loyalty."