I came across Joe Pulizzi’s blog post about Why it’s bad to be a big company (and the marketing opportunities that arise for small companies) the other day and think it’s a great subject. Especially at this time, when internet marketing still hasn’t found its way in some of the world’s major companies’ marketing strategies, being small can still have several advantages. Although big companies usually have big budgets, a broad range of knowledge, huge networks, lots of content and also a brand advantage, smaller companies and even individuals have shown that these benefits are not always the key to success. Besides the fact that large companies not always know how to use these benefits in their advantage, there are also a few places where small businesses tend to win most of the battles.
Big vs Small; image by Somun
If you’re small, you’re able to make quick decisions. There’s no need to fill in action request forms, organize a two week lobby and there’s no other time consuming, decision slowing process necessary. If you spot a trend, you often see only small companies respond to this trend. Big companies follow much later, because of their long lines and exhausting processes.
Speed is not only an offensive factor, but smaller companies can use their size in their defense as well. When someone discusses the brand of a large company, this company usually has to decide if they should respond. When this decision finally has been made, the right division should be determined (communication, PR, customer service, …) and a plan will be made. Once this plan is ready to get executed, the discussion will most likely have either exploded or died.
Smaller companies, on the other hand, are able to react fast. In stead of damage repair, these companies may even be able to turn the bad press into good press. What’s not to like about a company that responds to (and solves!) critique really quick, right?
Big companies have lots of different divisions. Each division has its own goals, which means that there are different points of interest. While division A has goal X and division B wants to reach point Y, a small business only has one or a few different goals. This means that you can work towards the same goal, in stead of discussing and finding some point in between.
One of the disadvantages of being a small company is that you have to be very picky with selecting new people. You can’t afford it to hire 20 different specialists, but you’ll have to settle with only a few employees with a broader range of knowledge. While it can be very hard to find these people, having only a few employees can also be an advantage, because it’s a centralization of knowledge. In stead of organizing meetings with each of the 20 specialists (who also have their own agenda and focus) for every decision that has to be made, you can decide things on your own or with your small team.
A centralization of knowledge also means control. You probably won’t end up fixing other peoples mistakes, such as adding a noindex tag to the website’s homepage or explaining the web design team why launching that new 100% flash design probably wasn’t a good idea. You know about the company’s plans, so you hopefully won’t come across surprises like that.
This probably is one of the most important advantages that a small business has over a big company. In stead of being goal or wallet driven, smaller companies tend to have a spirit and passion that’s above average. You can find people that enjoy the fact that they’re checking out new trends even in the weekends or on a holiday and that are always looking for things that might improve a process at the base of almost every small company. Real dedication, commitment and drive is what made lots of small companies big and is the key to success.
This post could have been about general marketing, but I didn’t title it “Big Company Internet Marketing” for no reason. At this moment, knowledge is one of the factors where small companies can still easily outperform the giants. PR divisions that don’t know anything about the effect of links, web designers that still don’t design SE friendly and copywriters that don’t do their keyword research will soon be a thing of the past. Until then, use it to your benefit. Like I mentioned before, being big -obviously- has its advantages, but it really isn’t that hard for a small company to exploit the points where they’re better.