Small Fish, Big Pond . . . or Big Fish, Small Pond? Which Is Smarter?

If your Small or Medium-sized Enterprise (SME) is experiencing high rates of failure – or a general low “win rate” – with your sales proposals and other new-business initiatives, you need to consider that the root cause may be more than just the quality of your proposal or the specific offer to the target.

It may be that you’re casting your net too broadly, and in doing so, you have no compelling point of difference. You’re a small fish in a big pond.

Being a small fish in a big pond makes it all the more challenging to stand out; to be unique; to compel the prospect to choose you, let alone to make you a preferred supplier, such that they become a key account for your enterprise.

It’s always counter-intuitive to narrow your business opportunities down. But, in fact, making the (sometimes psychologically hard) decision to be more specific with the market segments and / or the organisation types that you target, makes you a bigger fish in a smaller pond. This is a good thing, in terms of positioning your enterprise as a specialist supplier or service provider, rather than a generalist.

It’s also how some of the most successful new entrants in their various industries became shooting stars in record time. Take Stripe – an online payment platform. They didn’t go up against the monolithic Paypal straight out of the gate. They targeted developers, where certain needs, specific to that target market, weren’t being met. Once they grew in size, stature and resources, they began broadening out. It’s a case study in excellent market- entry-and-rapid-growth strategy.

The starting point for developing that strategy was, no doubt, the Stripe masterminds’ having planted themselves firmly in the shoes of each of the potential target markets they chose to investigate. They viewed their intended enterprise, their offering, and their capabilities, first and foremost through the eyes of the groups / sectors / professions they saw as potential client base components.

This topic leads logically, from here, into an examination of positioning, which leads, in turn, to a discussion on identifying and capitalising on natural strengths and weaknesses and reducing the reliance on areas of your enterprise that are comparatively and competitively weaker. Stay tuned to future posts for a deep dive into these extensions of this critical topic.