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How to Win When You're the Underdog

Yes, size matters. But it's not the only thing. An ecommerce entrepreneur shows how to compete when you're outmanned and out-spent.
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If your competitors have a head start in your industry, they have the upper hand. Not fair, maybe, but true. Despite what may be an average product or service, seasoned competitors have a simple leg up when it comes to branding and recognition: age.

In internet commerce, for example, age gives you extra 'cookie points' with search engines, as seniority is a factor in page rank, authority, link building, and more. Perhaps your senior competitors had it easier when there was less competition, ranking at the top without much effort, and reaping the benefits of limited options.

You might feel you got the short end of the stick because your company was founded in an era of massive competition in your industry. Here are a few tips to position your company among the top players:

Separate "professional" from "robotic"

Larger companies tend to present themselves in a rather corporate manner. Their frosty approach gives you a chance to charm the market with your personalized company story. Clients want to feel they are shopping with a company that cherry-picks their products or personalizes their services in some manner. Casualness and customization are not your enemy! Take advantage of the fact that your ideas don't have to go through a string of departments to get approved, and make it as personal as you can.

React quickly to industry trends

The most important advantage that you have over your competitor is your ability to react quickly. The bureaucracy of large teams and approval processes are tedious and time-consuming. While your senior competitor moves like an elephant, you're a vibrant cheetah running rapidly towards your next milestone. Stay abreast of innovative strategies and implement them. This is especially important in ecommerce, as blogging, videos, and social media have changed the rules of converting browsers to customers.

Push the boundaries of your industry playbook

Let yourself think outside the box. Way outside the box. Be bold. As long as the end goal is increasing profit or branding, go for those ideas that sound crazy. Monitor the results closely, and if it's not working, change it, cheetah.

Bottom line: you have more going for you than you think. Your competitors have paid researchers looking for the next big thing in the industry, and watching what new strategies are out there. They know you exist. So outsmart them. Give them a run for their money.

Last updated: Jan 9, 2013

MAYRA JIMENEZ | Co-founder, Orchid Boutique

In 2007, Mayra Jimenez and her husband founded The Orchid Boutique, which specializes in designer swimwear made in their native Colombia. Today, Orchid Boutique is a multimillion-dollar business.




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