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Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on April 26, 2000. All rights reserved.
Against Goliath, Sling that PR
In the famous Biblical tale, David overcomes a mighty
opponent with smart strategy and a simple slingshot. Like David, small
business owners constantly come face-to-face with formidable opponents
— corporations that have established reputations, large networks
of customers, and money for marketing. With the right strategy, however,
those smaller firms can prevail over the "Goliaths" of the
marketplace, says Debra Koontz Traverso, a business consultant
In her recently-released book, "Outsmarting Goliath: How to Achieve
Equal Footing With Companies that Are Bigger, Richer, Older, and Better
Known," (Bloomberg Press, $19.95, www.bloomberg.com), Traverso provides small business
owners with an artillery that includes tips on planning shrewdly,
cultivating image, and marketing. "Outsmarting the competition
doesn’t have to mean breaking them, or outpacing them, or even giving
them a run for their money," she writes. "Instead it can mean
flourishing in your market in spite of their existence. While the
big guys are throwing their weight around, it’s possible for you to
For proof, Traverso offers up the now cliche story of the dotcom Davids
— two guys, a garage, and an idea that’s turned from start-up
to multi-million dollar business practically overnight. An adjunct
faculty member at Harvard University and president of WriteDirections.com,
Traverso’s experience comes from 10 years of operating a small firm
providing crisis management expertise to big organizations like UPS
Cultivating a polished image is the first lesson for the would-be
Davids in this 250-page book. There’s also a chapter on harnessing
customers through contacts, and mastering the daily routine to foster
better opportunities. For small business owners, however, some of
Traverso’s most insightful remarks are in the chapter entitled "Marketing
for Optimum Impact." A few of her suggestions:
and will remain loyal just because there’s no option available. When
there is, however, they’ll take their business elsewhere. Don’t be
left thinking, "If only I had known…" Encourage feedback
in creative ways — by offering a happy hour complaint night, for
example, or a complaint-of-the-month award.
on, it’s acceptable to underbid for a large job so you can leverage
your experience with the next customer.
three or four hours each month talking to people who could be prospects,
but keep the conversation focused on them — not doing business.
Take notes on their interests, hobbies, family — so that you can
become more involved in their lives.
but also think in terms of where your customer is likely to be. Art
galleries, cafes, parks may all be possibilities for demos and garnering
who only show up when there is a sale. This forces you to keep offering
your services at discount prices.
necessarily, but a business with a similar customer base. Traverso
tells how a caterer expanded her market by reaching out to new mothers,
pitching the idea that they should celebrate the happiest times of
their lives with a party.
loyalty, and free publicity.
with competitors through advertising, says Traverso, but focus on
reaching your market personally and directly. When you decide to advertise,
remember the key is consistency — presenting the message over
and over in the right medium.
of strength, until eventually it becomes second nature. By thinking
like David, you become a Goliath.
— Melinda Sherwood
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