Newsroom

Small, nimble… and deadly

In a world that seems to love ‘big’ (big brands, big news, big celebrities, big scandals) don’t you think we tend to undervalue ‘small’?

Too often something small is not taken seriously. That may be down to a very human trait which subconsciously associates success and ability with scale; if the business is big, it must be because it’s good at what it does. That holds water right up to the point where you try to put in a call to customer services at one of the big energy companies…

There is a change in the air though, brought about by the behaviour of big business, which could have opened up tremendous opportunities for smaller businesses to feed off growing disaffection with their largest competitors.

The small business can be far more fleet of foot than something that has turned into a corporate behemoth with stratas of management that seem to exist only to manage themselves (it happens; I’ve seen it).

There are many recent events which you could reasonably assume have given a fair proportion of the population reason to pause for thought. There are the banking scandals (too many to list), mis-selling by power companies, tax ‘avoidance’ by multinationals, horsemeat galloping through the food chain and more. These are all associated with businesses that operate on such a huge scale that they may have begun to take for-granted the people they rely on to fund them, or perhaps because their size has created a crippling disconnect between the pieces.

None of this is going to change overnight, but in this turmoil smart, smaller businesses have been handed a golden opportunity to demonstrate their points of difference. Like never before they have the communication channels at their fingertips to tell their own stories directly to their audiences – and those customers will be listening more intently if what is on offer could be a solution to the bad taste left in their mouth by the behaviour of the big corporates.

At the obvious level there is the independent coffee shop ready to cash in on anger over the Starbucks approach to its tax affairs, along with the challengers in the energy supply market who should be turning the pricing shenanigans of the ‘big six’ power companies to their advantage. High street butchers with any nous will be doing everything they can right now to catch and keep those who have turned away from the supermarket meat aisles. The examples could go on.

The risk is that many a small business will not be looking up as these opportunities come sailing by, or they will assume that there’s no way to take on the might of corporate culture, with its multi-million pound marketing budgets and armies of PR types. In that they would be wrong.

As a culture we may undervalue ‘small’ but, perhaps perversely, we love the ‘little guy’. If that little guy can just grab some attention by being different, being loudest, being the best, being the specialist or simply being first, a tiny slice of the big competitor’s market could make a huge difference to their bottom line. I’ve explained to many a client how they can be ‘punching above their weight’ with their public profile and, in today’s climate, it’s a strategy that has the potential to achieve more than ever before.

Be small, by all means, but don’t be afraid to think big.

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