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How Smaller Built World Companies Can Compete with the Big Guys

26 Feb 2022

If you’re a smaller Built World company, you might not realize that you have a significant advantage over your larger competitors. 

That might come as a surprise. The big guys don’t just seem big – they seem gigantic. They have a strong grip on the market and look like they can easily crush anyone. 

Don’t be fooled by their size. Larger companies might be intimidating, but they have several weaknesses that smaller companies don’t. Recognizing those shortcomings is the first step to increasing your sales and outperforming them. 

And I do mean that. You can’t match their size or surpass their sales volume, but you can outperform them in a few areas that really matter: 

  • Higher sales growth
  • Better profit margins
  • More customer loyalty or preference

If you’re a smaller company, there are two ways to realize those advantages and outpace larger Built World companies. 

  • Get Focused

When companies hit a certain size, they lose their focus. They become sprawling, they dip their toes in too many markets, they try to appeal to everyone. 

As a smaller company, you should be doing the opposite. Instead of spreading yourself thin trying to keep up with companies that are backed by massive budgets, you need to do fewer things and do them better. 

Start by figuring out your focus. Identify what makes your product better than your competitors’ and which types of customers will value that difference the most. 

Smaller companies frequently play Follow the Leader. They let larger companies define the market and chase after the same customers. Instead, you should carve out your own market. Find the people who could really use your product and reach them where they are. 

Since you’re in the Built World business, you need to appeal first and foremost to the people who are involved in the design and construction process. Your product might make spaces better, safer, or more comfortable for end-users like owners and tenants, but you’ll be more successful if you focus on why your product is better for General Contractors, Architects and Builders. 

Even if your goal is to become a market leader, this is the way to do it. Start by becoming a leader in a specific segment of the market and expand from there. Leadership isn’t about the raw number of sales or the size of your market share – it’s about being one of the top dogs in your segment. 

  • Service, Service, Service

Customer service is another major weakness for larger companies. Dealing with a bigger company can often feel impersonal, especially since they tend to cut back on customer service to improve their margins. 

Because of that, providing superior service is one of the simplest ways to become the preferred product. 

A lot of companies think their customers only care about price. Truth is, most of them care more about time and simplicity. They’re overworked and understaffed. They want to work with companies that will make their lives easier. 

If you give them the right kind of customer service, that can be you. 

One problem, however, is that too many companies define customer service for themselves. They think it means answering the phone quickly or shipping products faster. 

It might be – but only if those are things your customer values. Customer service is only excellent if it’s based on what the customers want from you, not your own judgment. 

You can’t feel your way to better customer service. You have to interview your customers to find out what they need from you. 

Ask your existing customers why they do business with you and what you could do to better serve them. 

Ask customers who buy from your competitors what they like about dealing with them, what they wish they did differently and what it would take to switch. 

That way, you can give them customer service tailored specifically to their needs. That’s something your larger, less agile competitors simply can’t do. 

Chasing Sales Volume Over Profit Margins Keeps You from Seeing the Best Path Forward

Your larger competitors will focus their efforts on retaining their largest customers. 

Let them. 

Those customers are a double edged sword. They’re responsible for a large number of purchases but they also demand lower prices and higher levels of service. Meeting those demands means your competitors end up treating their smaller and medium-sized customers like second-class buyers. 

It’s a source of constant frustration. Those customers can tell they’re second banana and they know they deserve better treatment. 

It’s also one of your best opportunities to grab a larger share of the business. 

Customers want more than just products. They want to have their problems taken seriously. They want solutions that are relevant to them. They want to feel like they’re working with a company that is helping them succeed – not just taking their orders. 

This kind of personalized attention is what smaller companies do better than anyone else. If you take advantage of this, you won’t have to worry about the big guys anymore – but they might start worrying about you.