Despite the fact that the new entrants are rapidly grabbing market share from established Fortune 100 brands, the “promised land” of holiday consumer spend is largely inaccessible to them. Why? Simple supply and demand.

The run up to Black Friday is frenzy in the media-buying world. Surging demand drives up the cost of digital and other inventory to levels that make it difficult, if not impossible, to maintain CPA discipline. It’s one thing to be a nimble little mouse darting about the feet of one or two elephants, quite another when the whole herd is stampeding towards the water hole.

Consumer behavior in the prime holiday shopping season is another challenge. While “intenders” may be willing to take their time, do a little research, and comparison-shop from January through September, the pressure gets cranked up a notch in the last three months of the year. As a result, the entire conversion funnel ends up being compressed from days and weeks to minutes and hours.

So what is a smaller brand to do? Many of them are resigned to sitting on the sidelines until the elephants have left the field. But this isn’t a solution at all. After all, the goal of almost every small brand is to become a big brand. And you can’t scale to the big leagues by ceding the most important shopping period to the incumbents.

There are two agile content marketing strategies that hold the answer.

Extend the Funnel

The first is to change the rules of the game by opening the top of your holiday shopping funnel before the frenzy arrives. For small brands, that means aggressively deploying content in Q3 to begin the process of identifying and engaging intenders. While the big brands slug it out with performance-blind mega budgets leading up to Black Friday, these smaller brands harvest the fruits of their content marketing via highly efficient retargeting campaigns.

Nimble content optimization

The other is to rapidly and efficiently deploy optimized content during the shopping season itself. Smaller brands are simply not going to win if they rely on programmatic campaigns, display ads, and other direct-to-site strategies. They will be swamped by the larger players who are insensitive to rising costs per click and are relying on the sheer inertia of legacy brand spending to drive sales. However, it is possible for new entrants to compete to the extent that they can cut through the noise with effective comparison pieces that educate potential buyers within 2.5 to 3 minutes.