It can be daunting when you’re competing against much larger international businesses that seem to have endless resources, a team the size of a small country and enough marketing dollars to dazzle your customers.
However, customers aren’t dim, they know in today’s market all that glitters is not gold, and are looking out for not necessarily for the biggest name, but the best solution to meet their needs. There’s plenty of opportunity for local, nimble organisations to grab market share, if they’re savvy enough.
While you can’t always compete on price, there are a number of other factors that can give you a competitive advantage as they tend to be the weaker areas for large players.
Here are some of the elements I have focused on to compete against the large international tech companies that make up a large portion of my competitors.
Focus on the customer
In my industry there has been plenty of examples of larger technology providers completely dropping the ball when it comes to meeting client needs. One glaring example was when Queensland Health implemented a new payroll system using very large international suppliers. The system was so far from meeting the actual requirements that the additional cost of processing payrolls exceeded $1 billion. Being smaller and more aware of the market your customers operate in, you have a distinct advantage.
But I would suggest going further than this and really focus on your customers. Provide them with exceptional service, resolve issues quickly and show them you really understand their business. Find ways to make it easier for your clients to use your products or service, be it training, additional consultation or easy to use tools.
The large international companies are often burdened with a very strict and inflexible approach, dictated by a risk management approach and unnecessary overheads. They can be slow to respond, rigid in their approach and not well-attuned to the real customer needs. Being smaller and local allows a closer relationship to be developed and you can be far more flexible in deriving solutions that satisfy customer needs.
Become a partner not only a provider and you will more likely see increased long term client relationships as they can see you are invested in their business.
Keep improving your offerings
While you may not have the enormous R&D budget of your international counterparts, smaller businesses are more agile and can implement new improvements much faster and easier. So it makes sense to keep focusing on how you can improve your offerings to better appeal to your client base and get ahead of your much slower moving competition. Use the relationships with customers to influence product directions and they will also become a great test-bed for proposed capabilities and will provide great feedback
For us it’s important to continue to invest in our R&D team to keep refining and extending our Business Management System (BMS) product to better meet the challenges our clients face and how they will work in the future.
Don’t try to be everything to everybody. This can be a trap when developing close customer relationships and being very flexible in the products and services offered. However, you need to focus on core capabilities and ensure that any engagements are aligned to your own goals and strengths.
In our business we discovered that organisations have trouble understanding their operational environments and linking their processes, making strategy execution, compliance, transformation and continuous improvement extremely difficult to carry out – so this is what we try to solve.
Whether it’s a specific issue or certain industry, niching will help you be seen as an expert in that field, making it harder for your more general, generic competitors to stack up against your offering.
We also look for ways to use our competitors’ offerings to our advantage. We try to help our customers solve gaps that our competitors’ products present and even help them to use these products in a more efficient way. While there may be overlap in many products, focussing on the points of differentiation helps to deliver greater value and a more complete solution.
Having large international competitors doesn’t have to be a massive challenge. In fact, their existence can even highlight how specialist your offerings might be, how much more you offer clients and that your products are ahead of the curve. They may even present new business opportunities. It’s all about leveraging your strengths and your competitive advantage.
Bruce Nixon is the CEO of Holocentric which helps organisations to improve performance by helping them to understand how people, process and technology come together to satisfy client needs, meet regulatory obligations and achieve business outcomes. The Holocentric BMS addresses the gap between enterprise systems and business needs by acting as a dynamic model of your business operations that draws upon the relationships between all aspects of operations.