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One Way Small Companies Beat Big Companies: By Telling it Like it is

Ken Gaebler

On a recent trip to Silicon Valley, while waiting in the lobby of Digital Garage to meet an old friend, Greg Kidd, I had the good fortune of meeting entrepreneur Patrick Levy Rosenthal, the CEO of Emoshape.

Based in New York, Emoshape makes a microchip that allows AI engines and robots to experience more than 64 trillion possible emotional states in real-time.

Very cool company. If you've ever seen a futuristic movie in which a robot is sentient and can understand feelings, that's the space that Emoshape plays in.

For this quick missive on how small companies beat big companies, Emoshape came to mind because they are up against Google, IBM and a ton of massive companies that should ostensibly be able to crush them. Surely those behemoths will dominate the emerging market for robotic feelings and emotion synthesis within AI engines. It should be game over for Emoshape, right? Why are they even trying?

I HATE the assumption that big companies can kick a little company's ass. It's just wrong, and it's a defeatist mentality.

Our boutique marketing and PR agency, Walker Sands, regularly beats bigger agency competitors. We also regularly help many smaller, high-potential clients to crush bigger companies, capture new markets before the big guys get there, and pilfer big company market share.

It's easier than you might think. I actually believe that small companies are way more likely to win – simply because they want it more. Failure is not an option. Plus, don't underestimate the benefits of being nimble and able to move quickly.

People forget that Google was an underdog once. Big companies are beaten all the time. If they were smaller, you'd see them fall, but that's the beauty of being big: you can lose a lot of games before people notice. It's usually death by a thousand pin pricks.

What Emoshape Did That I Loved

Watch the video below, and you'll see how Emoshape takes on IBM Watson, the 800-pound gorilla in the AI world. They do it by showing – in no uncertain terms – that their product is better than IBM Watson.

This is a direct and frontal assault on a competitor. Bravo! Hit them where it hurts.

Too often, I see entrepreneurs trying to fly under the radar of larger competitors. They try to never mention competitors in sales presentations. In fact, my fav sales guru Neil Rackham and many others suggest that you lose sales traction and credibility by trash-talking the competition. So, we've all been trained to be very nice and never to say "You should work with us because we are objectively better than them."

The Emoshape video is refreshing because it basically says "They suck, and we don't."

That's the answer that I always want to give when Walker Sands is pitching somebody and they ask "So what are your differentiators as compared to other agencies?" I want to scream "They suck and we don't!" but that's considered uncouth. I'll probably catch some heat just for saying it in this blog post.

I think some people don't want to draw attention to a big competitor's weaknesses because they think they will "awaken a sleeping giant." There's some sense in that but most of these giants are already wide awake, and they're not too tough to stay ahead of even when they are fully caffeinated.

And if you're not gaining market share against a giant, but you have a better product (do make sure this is actually the case and that you're not just smoking entrepreneurial hope), then what do you have to lose? Attack them. Do a video that speaks truth to power like Emoshape did. (Quick plug: we have amazing video capabilities at Walker Sands if you need help.)

By outmaneuvering the competition with a head-to-head comparison, you'll likely get new customers, generate some media attention, and, there's an added bonus – it often happens that the bigger company will just swallow you up with a lucrative acquisition, rather than try to compete with you head on and lose ground to the other big competitors they hate. That's a "game over" situation most of us don't mind experiencing!

Go Head to Head with the Big Guys… and Beat Them

When competing against big guys, here are some excuses that should never pass your lips:

  • They've got more VC backing, so it's been tough for us.
  • Two of our competitors are public companies spending a lot on marketing, so it's been hard for us to get press coverage.
  • They've been at it for 40 years and we are just getting started, so it's an uphill battle.

Nonsense! Size does not matter when it comes to tech entrepreneurship. Sure, VCs may be trying to intimidate the market by giving $350 million to their "chosen" portfolio company. Don't be cowed. The best people win. The best products win. The best execution wins.

I'll likely write more in the future about how small companies can outperform big competitors, but I hope this makes you think about being more direct and more aggressive with your competitive messaging. Try it. You'll like it.

To me, there's nothing more nonsensical than knowing you are better than the competition and keeping it to yourself.

Hope this is helpful, and let me know if you have any thoughts on how to beat a bigger competitor.