David and Goliath – Taking on the marketing giants

By Geff Harper on November 8, 2017

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It’s a story most people are familiar with, yet I’ve always kind of felt sorry for Goliath.  For those who need a refresher, Goliath was a mighty warrior, a giant of man, who day after day (40 to be exact) defeated his enemies in single combat.  Then along comes the unlikely, short, skinny hero, David.  David wins.  How?  Advanced weaponry.  Yup.  Not that fair really.  It’s like putting Dwayne ‘The Rock” Johnson up against Kevin Hart, giving Kevin a gun, then calling Kevin a hero for shooting The Rock in the face.  Granted, David’s gun was in fact a slingshot, but it still wasn’t a fair fight.

But maybe that’s the point.  The fable would have you believe that the moral of the story is about not judging a book by its cover, that the little guy can prevail, but maybe what this story is really trying to tell us is that if you’re going up against someone bigger and stronger than you; give yourself every advantage you can, arm yourself to teeth, and if all else fails, throw rocks.  Maybe.

Meet David

We’re a small agency, in relative terms (we have under 20 staff).  We don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, but when we up against the major players in tech and marketing, it does occasionally present a ‘David & Goliath’ type challenge.  We don’t have millions to spend on marketing ourselves, or on outsourcing fancy and funky pitch designs.  We don’t have hundreds of thousands to spend on entertaining clients or potential clients.  We don’t have an enormous network, or decades of historical clients to schmooze.  So how do we win work, and why do some organisations prefer smaller technology marketing businesses?

Modern day sling shots

Well, just like David we have some things that work in our favour that might not be immediately apparent.

Usually, the biggest reason, is simply that it’s because we are not a huge corporation.  For all of the benefits and pros you get from working for a global leader, you get a heap of downsides:

  • Bureaucracy for one.  The more people, the more decision makers and the more processes.  The more processes, the more red tape, and the more red tape the more time to do anything.  It’s hard to be truly agile when it takes a month to make a decision.  Our clients (sometimes more often than we’d like) change their minds, and do so quickly.  Keeping up means changing tack and fast.
  • Communication.  For all of the above reasons.  The more complex the process, the greater the risk of error within it.
  • Cost.  We don’t have to buy, heat and supply a building that houses hundreds of people.  It means we can provide the same or even a better service for less money.

The second weapon in our armoury, or rock in our sling, is our culture.  It’s the one thing you can’t get anywhere else.  Love it hate it, it’s unique, and in many ways, it’s only made possible my not employing hundreds or thousands of people.  That’s not to say the big business don’t have a culture, or even don’t have a good culture.  They do, of course they do, but they don’t have our culture.  We have 5 values that are key to our business, two of which are Caring and Collaborative.  In order to care about all of your staff and to be able to collaborate with all of your staff, you have to know all of your staff. Really, really well.  That simply isn’t possible in big businesses.  You have to create silos, and creating silos causes factions to rise.

Lastly, and potentially controversially, is our expertise. It’s not that we know more than other people, it’s just that the knowledge is condensed.  Because we’re small, people have to take on different roles.  Our developers have to be great at front end and back end coding.  They have to use multiple languages.  Our designers have to be good at graphic design AND UX AND UI AND CX AND research.  From both a design and development perspective, big businesses break these functions up, by and large.  To be fair it makes sense to.  The downside is your projects teams get bigger, and bigger and bigger.  You can’t, as a client,  have one conversation with just 2 people because there’s 20 people working on something and invariably they’re not all available when you want them to be.  Our size not only forces to be experts in lots of things, but it makes us have to keep with the latest tech.

It’s through being all of the above, that we’re able to kick Goliath’s arse.  Not every time, I wish it was, but we do it enough to give him a limp.

Bigger isn’t always better, and sling shots come in many shapes and sizes.

Geff’s been in design for nearly 20 years, in digital for the last 10. Geff uses User-Centred Design principles to develop CX and UX that delivers for clients. He loves problem solving, leading design sprints and prototyping. Geff advocates strongly for user feedback and enjoys the challenge of creating solutions that positively impact user behaviour and interaction with technology.

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