Small businesses, in particular, struggle to stand out and differentiate themselves from the crowd. Many strategies employed by larger firms simply won’t work for a smaller company either due to resources, scale or breadth of the target audience. An issue I encounter frequently is a small business copying the strategy of a larger more successful company. Not only is that wildly uncreative the fact is that it is tough to beat someone at their own game – especially if they have more inertia.
One strategy that can work for smaller companies is taking a contrarian approach. This is not for the faint of heart and depending on the industry may simply not be the right thing to do. However there are many places where it can be employed quite effectively.
A contrarian strategy is quite simply doing the opposite of what everyone else is doing. If you are a homebuilder and everybody else is building large McMansions then you build small homes to fill the need among the first time and lower income consumers. If everyone else is going self-serve then you go full-serve. If diet ice cream is the rage then you come up with a full flavored, amazing-tasting ice cream – think Ben & Jerry’s. If every cell phone manufacturer is racing to make the smallest phone possible (like they were ten years ago) then you come out with a large phone that redefines what a phone is – think Apple.
Anytime the marketing herd moves in one direction there is a group of underserved customers who are left behind. This is the opportunity for a nimble small business. Some of the most amazing discoveries, advances and businesses were created by people who thought differently and took the contrarian approach. Don’t be afraid to at least consider doing the opposite of what everyone else is doing.