The Underdog Advantage

If someone calls you the underdog you are probably that person who was cheered on by your biggest fans, fought for every win, and now you find yourself going up against the big dogs. You’ve worked hard to earn the right to be considered a contender but the odds are stacked against you. You have to put your best foot forward each and every time to prove you have the right to be there. You must deliver to win over your fans.

In business, the big dogs should pay more attention to the underdogs. These small companies with innovative visions are viable opponents and may be better equipped to deliver on what your customer needs. The challenge is getting customers to see the benefits of choosing the underdog.

A great example of a former underdog is Netflix. Remember when Blockbuster was the way you rented a movie? Most people wondered how a company like Netflix would ever make it against a giant like Blockbuster. In 2004, Blockbuster was making $6B (yes, with a “B”) in revenue and Netflix struggled to bring in $500M. To copete, Netflix began to offer more convenience to their customers, first with movies through the mail and then streaming to devices. Netflix had to be innovative and deliver services the consumer wanted to win as an underdog. Where are they now? Netflix has over 31M subscribers and Blockbuster declared bankruptcy and closed all of its stores in 2013. In a LinkedIn article series – “Underdogs – The American Way”, Netflix co-founder and CEO Reed Hastings is quoted, “Don’t be afraid to change the model.”

My company is an underdog in an industry of big dogs. We evaluate our model daily to ensure we stay relevant and swift. We grow slowly, but steadily. I firmly believe that because I’m an underdog, I am the better choice for my customers. Every transaction gives me a chance to build my fan base and grow, which means it’s important that I meet or exceed expectations.

Knowing the true value of underdogs, many of our chosen suppliers are underdogs. Yes, we also use the big dogs, but find great value in the products and services from companies that aren’t always on everyone’s radar. Remember, these guys have to bring more to the table to compete in a world where they might not have the recognition that their competition has achieved. They too are building their reputation and fan base.

Look at your business. If you find yourself saying, “Wouldn’t it really help our business if…” it might be time to explore what the underdogs have to offer. Possibly one of them is offering what you need and it’s time to change your model.


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