Question: How do we deal with competitors, who are more advanced (funding, experience, design, longer, larger team etc.)

We have launched a disruptive startup in the last mile logistics. We are 6 months on the project but have achieved significant traction.

Our competitors recently launched global PR campaign. They are far more advanced. 2 yrs, 30+ team (we are 3), better product design, better funded. globally known names.

We are not afraid but it seems they will outperform us. We have talked with them, but no cooperation options for now. We have chosen to focus on b2b (they are b2c). What else we can do?

They are developing hardware. We also do but We want to focus on business development more.

9 Expert Insights

You have already focused on b2b as a competitive differentiator. Focus on your client / customer base. Don't look at what you do well but ask what do they want from your business category.

-What is most important to them?
-What will give them the most value?

Then work to make these core competencies in your company. The stronger these core competencies the stronger your competitive advantage.

As a startup you have many competing issues for your time. Be focused, clear and strong on what is most important for your client base.

When competing with a better funded company, you need to focus on "not". What are you that they are not? They are B2C; you're B2B. They are cheap; you are premium. It's a classic case of positioning yourself - and "slightly better" or "a little different" isn't enough. Where are you 10 times better? 100 times better?

The answer is usually found in focus on a buyer type, a persona. What type of customer do you target? What are their challenges that are not being met by the competitors.

I always begin with personas and their problems. Then examine my ability to address those problems. I use a technique called "ASPIRE" which forces you to answer questions about your unique capabilities. Read more in my free ebook "ASPIRE to your Capabilities" at

So, 3 steps:

1. Understand personas and their problems to determine the product capabilities
2. Use ASPIRE to score your abilities to address these problems
3. Differentiate from other offers with competitive positioning

Consider prioritizing your BD efforts toward areas of deep expertise / product differentiation and developing a product roadmap that strategically grows your offering into a more competitive space.

Understanding that you are CURRENTLY over-matched can be used to a strong advantage as you temporarily niche yourself with a vision to grow into the priority areas.  

Hopefully you have begun this process with a good enough understanding of your potential customers to develop a more targeted approach to meet their needs. The target groups would be those with specialized needs and industry influence. Use this as the "thin edge of your wedge" for successful entry, and use feedback from your competitor's customers to unravel emerging market needs.

You've got some good tips here to jump start your thinking.  Every business is under constant pressure to perform and deliver value.

Reading between the lines a bit it would seem that your number one challenge is business development. The fact that the competition you mentioned has a bigger budget, etc. is really just noise to you since you are targeting a different buyer. It'd be an interesting experiment for you to explore what might be all the things you would do if budget wasn't an issue. Once you explore that you could then ask yourselves, How to take action within the constraints of your budget.

There are variety of ways to creatively explore how you might grow your business.  Turning your problems into questions could be your first step to finding viable solutions. This article from Fast Company came across my desk today. It seemed perfect fodder for you

It's a great idea to focus on a market where your competition does not currently focus. It's more likely that you can identify new sources of value and be the first deliver that superior value to those customers.

In your conversations with those customers focus your questions less on what they want and more on what a day in their life is like. Ask them:

1. What objectives they are trying to achieve?
2. What they are doing today to achieve those objectives?  
3. How successful are they?
4. What works well?
5. What goes wrong?  
6. What are the consequences of those imperfections (both economic and psychological) to the customer (individually and to their company)?

Then, you and your team can analyze the imperfections in that customer experience to identify what a significantly improved experience could be. Brainstorm how your organization could be instrumental in making that improved customer experience a reality for the customer. Don't limit yourself to your current capabilities. You may be able to build the new capabilities or partner with other organizations to deliver the new value.

It's a subtle difference.  Asking a customer what they want is better than no feedback, but it can limit the possibilities.  The customer is likely to box you into your current category, and it relies on the customer to know enough about your business to make the best suggestion.  On the other hand, by focusing on what they are trying to accomplish and how successful they are, you may find more creative ways to better serve them.

Small companies try to be smaller versions of big companies and big companies will out fund, outsell and out market you. What do you do? Change the game!

Identify  a market segment that is not being served or served well and focus there. Do not market a brand like the big companies instead shoot a video with the founder and explain why you started the business... to solve a problem the big guys ignore or to serve people as people, not as a name are a few ideas.

If you spend time, money and energy competing against the large companies using the same strategy they do... you will lose. They have a much bigger budgets than you. American Airlines was the first to introduce frequent flier miles, Miller was first to introduce Lite beer...are a few examples.

Your question is typical of many startups. The answer is "it depends."

It depends on what you are trying to accomplish. What is your long term vision and what do you want to make happen in the near term as well. Deciding what to do must be tied to those two factors.

If growth is one of your near term goals you have said that you are focused on B2B. Great. How do you stand competitively in that market? How can you differentiate your business? Improve service through the use of technology, better training of your staff, cross brand with another (non-competitive) service provider or some other approach that makes your business different.

Whatever you decide to do, do it so that your efforts support your long term vision and your short term goals or objectives and set an action plan to accomplish those goals.

Short Answer: You differentiate yourself from the competition. Every product or service solves a problem. You must solve a problem the competition doesn’t, or solve it better. You provide something they do not: better product, better service, more features, extras, etc. Then they are no longer competition. In your case, it seems you have already done this. You are B2B; they are B2C.

Long Answer: Do all of the above; and add some guerilla marketing and PR - in other words - low cost, do-it-yourself, promotion working primarily in social media.

As a rule, if you are competing head-to-head for the same market share, you must match your competition dollar-for-dollar in advertising spending. If you want to take market share from your competition, you must exceed their spending.

Here’s how you market on a budget. First make sure all your marketing copy clearly states what your expertise is, and how it will benefit the customer. You want every potential customer to fully understand what problem you will solve for them. Use storytelling to illustrate your superiority - don’t just list facts. People remember stories, which means they will remember your message.

Next utilize LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. Seek connections/followers with your primary target audience. Post frequently, but make your posts interesting to your target audience. Create groups on LinkedIn and Facebook that will attract your target audience. Engage your audience by encouraging discussion. When you make videos for YouTube, tell stories - case studies - of how you solved a particular customer’s problem.

Do your own PR, and send out press releases - delivered as well written stories and case studies - to the media which your target audience attends, and a hungry media that needs to fill space may use your story as delivered.

Last mile logistics is a very challenging business. Having significantly contributed to and led the number 2 parcel service in its market in B2B and B2C, I know first hand how difficult this is to achieve with any regularity because the number of variables is so high. However, I will offer you this bit of advice as to the perspective I use when facing the market.

All businesses exist because they reduce the struggle a customer is experiencing in seeking to achieve a specific outcome. I know. That's a loaded sentence. However, if you think about it that's all a business really does.

The customer has the expectation that they will be able to receive a package. In your case, the market is a B2B one so your customer's probably have an expectation of timeliness because the package being delivered needs to integrate with their business processes. This means their struggle is not only with having the package arrive (a physical struggle) but with time sensitivity (an intellectual struggle). (There are also emotional struggles but that is mostly with consumer-driven businesses but maybe your way of exciting does involve responding to an emotional component.) Unfortunately, you do not have any influence over the order process so you need to be informed by the shipping company of when the package needs to be delivered and organize your rounds accordingly. so, your company has two customers: the end user business and the contracting shipping company. What uncertain outcome is the shipping company experiencing which makes them want you to provide your last mile service? Certainly timeliness will be a factor. Cost will also be a factor and that will depend on your load ratios and delivery density. However, because you are B2B you may also be be able to pickup allowing your vehicles to come back full further reducing your cost basis. Your shipping customers will also want information integration so that there is a seamless exchange of information to and from your company.