Devour Your Competition
One Small Bite at a Time
by Chad Rueffert

Can you imagine being eaten alive?  Thousands of little, tiny mouths filled with razor-sharp teeth gouging mouthfuls of your flesh until nothing is left but your skeleton?

It’s that imagery that makes the piranha so intriguing, and there is a lot that can be learned from the deadly little fish.

Small businesses are the piranhas of the corporate world.  For every elephant or water buffalo wandering through the rain forest, there are a hundred piranhas waiting in the shallows of the river hoping to get a bite or two of flesh.  For every Wal Mart there are hundreds of moms & pops opening specialty stores – for every Microsoft there are thousands of hungry programmers.

Piranhas serve an important biological function.  Weaker animals are easily devoured, ensuring only the strong survive.  Dead or dying animals are disposed of quickly, before they can rot and spread disease.  
Small businesses do the same for the corporate world, protecting consumers from being trampled by corporate elephants and ensuring only strong and healthy companies survive the journey.  Think of companies like Southwest Airlines who remains profitable when the elephants in their industry are dying and being eaten.  

In nearly every industry, the position of elephant is already filled.  If you hope to be successful as a small business owner, it’s best to accept your role as a small fish, and spend your time sharpening your teeth rather than wishing for tusks and a trunk.  Here are a few lessons about Piranha Marketing you can apply to ensure you get the tastiest parts of the elephant in your industry.

Take It One Bite At A Time

Unlike David and Goliath, the little guy rarely wins the battle with one divinely guided stone to the head.  It makes more sense to nibble away at the toes than it does to go right for the jugular.  Even if you take down an elephant, if you’re not ready to fill the role, another elephant will move right in.  Instead, choose the tastiest morels (the best customers, the most profitable product) and chew on that for a while.  Most large corporations won’t even notice you nibbling away at their market share until you become big enough to bite very painfully.

Watch Out For Other Piranhas

Piranhas usually swim in schools of twenty or more.  Often, during a feeding frenzy, they spend as much time gnawing on each other as they do their prey.  Piranhas have been known to eat each other -- even their own offspring.  As a small business owner, it’s likely that your biggest competitive threats come not from the corporate giant, but from the other small businesses competing to control your part of the river.  While you’re taking bites of the elephant, other piranhas may be chewing on your fins.  In other words, protecting your market share is as important as expanding it.  Learn to keep your current customers happy before looking for new ones.

Don’t Pretend You’re An Elephant

One of the worst marketing strategies for small business is to mimic their larger competition.  When customers have a choice between elephants, they’ll choose the larger, healthier, better known one.  Instead, give them a choice between elephant and piranha.  If your competition is large and impersonal, strive to be intimate and service-oriented.  If your competition has high prices, offer your product at a discount.  Not everybody likes the taste of elephant, and some are downright allergic to it.  Those are the customers you should focus on.  Go head-to-head with the elephant and you’ll be trampled.  Instead, bite off his tail when he’s turned the other way.  And keep your teeth very sharp.  Your competition is bigger, stronger, more easily recognized.  If you can’t provide your customers with a solid reason to switch from the elephant they’ve known forever, they won’t.

There’s a certain allure to being a small fish with big teeth.  That’s why so many new businesses are started each year.  Entrepreneurs have seen the elephant in the water and they know it’s vulnerable, if they can only get close enough to take a bite.  Keep your teeth sharp, remember you’re not an elephant, and soon you’ll find you’re devouring your competition one small bite at a time.