How To Compete With Big Companies and Win (Even If You Lose!)

When you compete with big companies, THEY WIN most of the time. That’s the brutal truth.

If you are looking for an inspirational article, keep googling.  My expertise is in business strategy, marketing, and content creation, not motivational speaking.

I’m not saying you can’t EVER beat the big guys…

Each business deal is unique. And there are situations where a strong David can beat a weak Goliath.

For example, if a potential client is specifically interested in penetrating the local market, a smaller company with deep roots in the local community can have an advantage.


Finding a strong niche helps. But in general, it’s hard to compete with big companies and come out on top.

In most cases, it boils down to capacity.

Small companies may have equally valuable products and services, but big companies have proven capacities. They have built the strategies and processes necessary to produce in volume, scale up, etc.

So Why Bother Trying To Compete With Big Companies?


EVERY time you go up against a large competitor, you gain valuable intel. Win or lose, you learn stuff!

And what you may lack in capacity, you can make up for in agility.

Those same strategies and processes that make big companies strong, also make them slow. Think about great runners. They are lean, not bulky.

As a small company, you can pivot, adapt, and innovate more quickly.

So you need to get in there and duke it out with the big dogs sometimes. It’s a practical, boots-on-the-ground way to identify your strengths and your weaknesses.

In simple terms… you may have to lose a battle or two in order to win the war!

Don’t Make Excuses


It’s easy to make excuses. As I have already said, when you compete with big companies, the odds are against you.

Losing is most certainly unpleasant. To lessen our sense of failure, it is tempting to justify the loss with general statements, like:

  • “We never had a chance.”
  • “The whole process was rigged.”
  • “They knew people.”

Excuses are lazy blanket-statements that absolve you from responsibility. When you make – and accept – excuses, you stop investigating the real reasons for the failure.

This is a HUGE business blunder. Because digging deep into why you didn’t get the job will unearth valuable insights that help you succeed the next time!

Even those general excuses should be investigated. For instance…

If you never had a chance, why did you waste your time and effort putting in a proposal?

That is a legitimate question. Maybe you need to look at how you prospect for new business. Improve the screening process so that you bid on projects that you have a better chance of getting.

Failure is not the end… It’s just part of the process of success.


I know firsthand how discouraging it is to compete with big companies and lose.

It is tempting to bury the whole experience and not look back. NO ONE likes to spend time pondering their failures.

But it is important to do a retrospective. Use your failure to learn as much as possible. Then move on to the next opportunity and do better.

Take a deep dive into what happened. While your ego may be dented, you need to move beyond your hurt feelings.

Take An Objective Look At Things Like…

The bidding process

  • What would you do differently next time?
  • Were there gaps or weaknesses in your written proposal?
  • If there were presentations… how could you make them better?
  • Was your pricing competitive?


  • What were the strongest capabilities of the winning company?
  • How can you strengthen those capabilities within your company?

Branding and Marketing

  • How would you describe the “brand reputation” of the winning company?
  • What does their website look like? How are they using social media?  What types of content are they focusing on?
  • How can you improve your marketing based on what you have seen of theirs?

Networking and Getting To Market

  • If they “knew people”… How can you get to know those people?
  • Are there networking opportunities you could be taking advantage of?
  • What government programs/incentives are available to help you scale up and explore new markets?


Look For New Ways To Slay Dragons

In truth, you will likely need to compete with big companies at some point. You need the experience. And a single win could mean A LOT to your small business.

But limit the number of unbalanced fights. Be conscious of your resources and use them wisely. I have watched small businesses with great potential slip into bankruptcy by investing too much time and energy (and money) on long-shots!

Remember the old adage: There is more than one way to slay a dragon.

For example:

Look at the supply chain.

You may not be big enough to jump in as a Tier 1 or Tier 2 supplier. But you might be an ideal supplier for  a medium-size company that is already part of the supply chain! Try to jump in again – only this time jump in at a point that better matches your capacity and capabilities.

Search for opportunities to work with the company that won the bid.

While you didn’t get the job, you know who did! That big company just took on a new client and an increased workload. New deals breed new opportunities.

For example, the company that won the deal may need local-market support. Or may be interested in out-sourcing some part of the deliverables.

With a little creativity, you may be able to turn your competitor into a client!

Take note of the timeline on that contract.

Nothing lasts forever.  While you didn’t win the deal THIS year, you may be better equipped in the future.  If you came close to getting the job, use your agility to prepare for a re-match!

Conclusion: When You Compete With Big Companies You Can Win Even If You Lose

When you compete with big companies there is a very real possibility that you will lose. And there may be situations in which the risks outweigh the potential benefits.

For example, if the process of competing is onerous, time-consuming, and costly, and the odds are greatly stacked against you, it may be wise to say “no”.

But to grow your business and scale up, you need to push beyond your comfort zone sometimes.

An occasional loss won’t kill you. In fact, you may gain valuable insights into what it will take to win the next time!

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2 thoughts on “How To Compete With Big Companies and Win (Even If You Lose!)”

  1. Hi Kim,
    Love this one! I used to work for a big company and it took months to make changes in their digital marketing and social media methods. Now as a solopreneur I can make changes immediately as needed. I also learn from mistakes and by doing. I’m doing another Instagram class today and I’ve updated a few slides to help those that don’t understand hashtags or what Instagram is. I have to start from the basics first.
    One has to really push beyond their comfort levels today to make an impact with their business 🙂 You are so right on with this one!


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