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  • Amy Osmond Cook

How to Compete With the Big Guys and Win

It's going to take a gutsy mix of focus, quality and authenticity to be David to their Goliath.

Are you tired of building a killer business only to be undercut by Amazon? Are you sick of Wal-Mart squeezing you out of the marketplace because your wholesale price is too high? Is your product better than the leading competitor but relatively invisible?

While it may seem impossible to compete with the big guys, there are many success stories of startups beating out the behemoths. Their secret? As James Schrager said in a recent Wall Street Journal article, “you'll need to do something better, cheaper, faster, or amazingly different in a way that won't put you directly in the cross hairs of a big, powerful company.”

If you can specialize in a specific market, prioritize quality and refuse to compromise your authenticity, you can take on the giants. Your company doesn’t need to be big to succeed -- you just need to think big to make it happen.

Specialize in a specific market.

When you specialize in a specific market, you become a true expert who understands what that customer wants. Here’s one way you can beat the big guys at their own game. Customers buy from you because they trust you know them and because you are going to solve a problem for them.

Take Zameer Kassam, for example. By knowing his customer, this high-end custom jeweler has created a disruptive strategy in a struggling industry that has experienced several years of decline.

Kassam is successful precisely because he is able to serve a specific market in ways his competitors do not. He embeds details of his customers’ personal stories -- how they met, significant dates, events and shared interests -- into customized, one-of-a-kind rings. As traditional high-end jewelers like Tiffany & Company have suffered in an uncertain economy, Kassam’s business has experienced double-digit growth. For Kassam, the future is sparkling bright. He is now living his passion and will never turn back.

“Once you know who it is you're going after," says Entrepreneur contributor Michael Kaleikini. "Then you can begin to design a plan around how you will market to them so they can see you, begin to learn who you are, and get to liking you, so they come and buy from you.” A small business is usually more nimble and is able to pivot to meet the needs of a changing, specialized market in ways a large corporation can’t.

Make quality your first priority.

When quality comes first, your business grows. It’s as simple as that. Marygrace Sexton is a good example. Her company, Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice Company, began as a mom’s dream and turned into a $45-million-dollar success story. How? By providing quality.

From the first day, the juice has always been squeezed daily to guarantee freshness. Her juices contain four or fewer ingredients, while being free of concentrates, added sugar, sodium, preservatives or artificial flavors. Natalie’s has been recognized 10 times for producing America’s best tasting fresh Florida juices, and its products can be found in over 30 states and 24 countries.

Be authentic.

People like you when you’re “real” and get turned off when you’re “fake.” Customers hold brands to the same standard. If you want to compete in business, you need to know who you are.

In 1979, when Ricky Eisen set out to build a catering and restaurant business, her priority was to create an authentic, quality product and service. Today, Between The Bread (BTB) has set itself apart within the quick service restaurant category by going to extraordinary lengths to provide customers with fresh, authentic fare.

For example, after finding out that most “grab and go” restaurant chains use horseradish in their wasabi, Ricky’s son and partner, Jon, went on a mission that had him knocking on the back door of a supplier in Chinatown to get genuine wasabi for BTB's customers.

With integrity as its business value, BTB has transformed Eisen’s personal passion into a rotating menu of healthy protein, vegetable and grain dishes that have been vetted by some of the biggest names in the food industry.

In a world where the biggest and the loudest businesses are too often viewed as the best, entrepreneurs like Kassam, Sexton, and Eisen are changing that perspective. Their examples demonstrate the impact you can create when you are able to specialize in a specific market, are willing to put quality first, and are dedicated to delivering an authentic product or service. Follow the example of these business leaders, and watch your business take on those industry giants -- and win.

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