In his latest book, “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants,” author Malcom Gladwell argues that a reexamination of the Biblical boy-slays-giant story is the ideal metaphor for the advantages that so-called underdogs often have over larger, stronger competition.
Not only was David’s sling one of the most devastating weapons in ancient times, but historians believe that Goliath suffered from a disorder that caused problems with his vision, Gladwell explains. “So you have a combination of a big, lumbering, half-blind giant, and a nimble, skilled young man with a devastating weapon. That is not the story of a hopeless underdog against an overwhelming favorite,” Gladwell told journalist Charlie Rose.
Similarly, says Veronica Holmes, senior business consultant for Marketo Australia, smaller marketing teams tend to have three real advantages they can leverage over larger competitors with more money to spend: Agility, team members who are cross-trained and multi-skilled, and a mindset of being more innovative as a result of doing more with less.
On the Marketo blog (marketo.com), Holmes offers five key strategies to leverage these strengths and level the playing field between you and your behemoth competition.
1. Invest in what you’ve got. If you can’t afford to hire more people, maximize the talent you have. Targeted investments in staff training or in expert consultants (who can inject new, short-term ideas and skills into your campaign process) can make all the difference. Expect a lot from your team, but show them that you’re invested in their success.
2. Use the right tools. By using cutting-edge solutions and processes, such as marketing automation platforms, small teams can achieve provable revenue results and targeted market reach comparable to larger operations.
3. Measure, measure, measure (but not too much). It’s even more important for small teams to evaluate results than larger teams because you don’t have a minute or a cent to waste. Experience and intuition cannot be replaced, but far better to look to your marketing metrics for guidance first, and then use your intuition to decide where your precious marketing resources will be invested. That said,
all teams should beware “paralysis by analysis.” Don’t hamstring yourself
by wrapping your decision-making process up in knots while you analyze data you don’t need. Pre-determine the key indicators you’ll need to reliably capture, including revenue, customer behavior, and market indicators.
4. Align sales and marketing KPIs. Don’t just talk about alignment between sales and marketing — make it happen! Consider merging your teams to focus on a single thing — revenue.
At the very least, run cross-functional meetings that focus on this core key performance indicator, ensuring communication and accountability. With smaller teams, it’s that much easier to gather and reconnect regularly. Your ability to act as a single cohesive force can give you an edge.
5. Stop doing what isn’t working. Question everything. This might be controversial at your planning meetings, but you must stop doing things that don’t work. There can be lots of reasons why something fails, but if the data shows no revenue gains, you have to consider reallocating those resources. Every competitor in your industry might be at that tradeshow or buying up the high-traffic keywords, but unless you can show ROI after a defined period, you should at least question that activity’s value.
While this advice is tailored to small businesses, it applies to all companies, Holmes says. Regardless of size, be agile, be disciplined and get optimized.