Being a small fish in a big pond has its advantages. It can be challenging for small businesses to keep up with large corporations. However, there are some things only small, locally-owned businesses can offer, and it’s these offerings that will keep customers coming back to the “small” fish.
We spoke with multiple business leaders who define ways small businesses can compete with big brands.
Stephanie Heitman, the Senior Managing Editor for LOCALiQ, lists a few ways small businesses can press their natural advantage over large corporations. This list includes: providing excellent, personalized customer service, adapting according to customer feedback, getting involved in your community, and establishing a solid social media presence.
Great Customer Service
As a small business owner, you have control over all aspects of your business, something that’s not possible in chain corporations. The larger the company, the less the owner can ensure that the business runs according to their standards. For example, the customer service might be excellent at one chain but poor at another.
Customers are often attracted to small businesses because they can provide quality customer service consistently.
Cody Candee, Founder and CEO of Bounce, describes how the excellent customer service provided by Bounce and its partners keeps customers coming back.
He says, “Reviews of our service usually focus on its convenience, affordability, and friendly customer service. Our customer service representatives strive to make the customer’s search as efficient as possible. We partner with storage locations that want customers to feel secure in leaving their luggage and enjoying their trip. As a small business that partners with small businesses, we can ensure a positive customer experience. As much as it is the quality of the service, it’s the friendliness of the staff that makes customers want to use our services again.”
Patrick Samy, CEO of Span Health, explains how small businesses can go a step beyond friendly customer service into personalized care.
“Span focuses on the individual,” Samy begins. “We understand that everyone is different, so we guide each client in the way that works best for them. We start by analyzing their unique data, and our health coaches work with clients to establish sleep, diet, and exercise habits. If something doesn’t feel like the right fit for the client, the health coach will help them customize a different solution. Since there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution for health, no large corporation can meet all customer needs.”
As a small business owner, you can connect with each customer. Show them you care about their individual needs and, whenever possible, tailor the experience to them. That’s another advantage you have as a small business: the ability to adapt and innovate.
Consistent quality is the foundation of any successful business. However, when large corporations fail to innovate to meet customers’ changing demands, they lose relevance.
Jim Beard, COO of BoxGenie, explains how small businesses can maintain product quality and adapt products according to customer feedback.
“What makes a small business stand out against corporations is its ability to innovate,” Beard states. “A corporation will have to receive a lot of similar feedback to consider making a change, and if it does decide to change, it will be slow-going and inconsistent to implement the change at every store. Small businesses can take the feedback of a few and implement changes quickly and efficiently. They will help the customers directly. If you’re a small business, listen to your customers. They will help you innovate.”
Joshua Chin, CEO of Chronos Agency, states that innovation keeps small businesses relevant and competitive.
He says, “Whatever market you’re in, it’s constantly evolving. The digital space of eCommerce changes quickly. You have to keep up with clients’ changing needs and your competitors. If you ignore your environment, you might miss a chance to elevate your business and your reach. The wonderful thing about being a smaller-scale business is that you’re on the ground. You can spot a client need or a marketing opportunity, and you can take action right away. Whether it’s through adding a new product or participating in a local fundraiser, you can adapt. It’s the innovative spirit that draws clients to local businesses.”
A small business also has the distinct advantage of being local. As a small business owner, you have the chance to get involved and make connections with your immediate community.
Leo Livshetz, Founder and CEO of UnHide, claims that one of the advantages a small business has over a national or international corporation is its ability to get involved with its local community.
“Community events are opportunities to give back to the people that support you. They offer you the chance to live out your mission as a small business owner: to care about the individual, boost the local economy, and be accessible. By participating in community events, you have the chance to learn more about your target audience, to have customers try your product, and to spread your brand’s name,” Livshetz states.
By participating in local events, you’re contributing to the community’s wellbeing, and you’re increasing your brand’s visibility. Another way for your brand’s name to reach new customers is by establishing a social media presence.
Social Media Presence
Social media connects people. Small businesses can connect to potential and existing customers on social media channels. These channels also offer free promotion opportunities and visual advertising.
Omid Semino, CEO and Founder of Diamond Mansion, describes how a strong Instagram presence has supported the local business.
Semino states, “We knew that with the Shop option on Instagram, the platform was becoming a popular way for people to find and shop for new brands. The greatest pull of our products is their visuals. It’s common to look for and post photos of engagement rings on social media channels, so we wanted to capitalize on that. Having a clear plan for our social media strategy has increased our reach, because now, we have a customer base that uses search engines to find our website, and we have a customer base that is mainly present on Instagram. If you use it well, social media is a game-changer for a small business. You can post frequently and repost client testimonials without the pressure of changing your website.”
With excellent customer service, innovation, community involvement, and effective social media use, you are giving your small business an edge over its larger competitors. Pius Boachie, a writer for Entrepreneur, includes two more tips to help small businesses compete with large corporations: be specific and flaunt your competitive angle.
As a small business, it’s essential to hone your target audience and the service you’re providing.
Michel Mosse, Co-Founder and Head of Revenue of Hoist explains why you need to target a specific audience.
“A small business has to start small. When you know your business well, you can establish a customer base. If you try to take on too much and too broad of an audience, you won’t connect with customers, and the quality of your product might suffer. Determine who your product is for first. Once you have the customer in mind, you can establish and execute your marketing strategy. Then, after you’ve built a customer base, you can hear its feedback, adapt accordingly, and grow your target audience,” Mosse states.
Adam Shlomi, Founder of SoFlo Tutors, describes the importance of being specific in your business goals.
Shalomi states, “Keep your mission at the center of everything you do. You started a small business because you saw a problem and created a solution. You already know the main goal of your company. Consistently check-in to make sure you’re meeting this goal, especially if your company is expanding and taking on new opportunities. Set clearly defined, small goals along the way. These will keep you on track. The more specific the goal, the better the strategy for achieving it. Without well-defined goals, you and your customers will be confused about your brand and the services you’re providing.”
In addition to being specific, a small business should take what makes it unique and market its individuality. Customers will choose your business when you offer them something large businesses can’t.
Phillip Akhzar, CEO of Arka, explains how the company uses its mission to set it apart from larger competitors.
“What makes Arka unique is the fact that our products are sustainably sourced,” Akhzar begins. “We offer good prices and a fast turnaround, but those aren’t necessarily going to make customers choose us over another company that offers those things on a larger scale. In our marketing, we highlight the fact that we’re sustainable. The market for sustainable products is growing, and more people are seeking eco-friendly options. We want to draw these customers in right away. As the owner of a small business, you must determine what makes you unique and why customers should care.”
A competitive edge can also be your origin story.
Rabah Rahil, CMO of Triple Whale, claims that it’s your small business story that makes you relatable to customers.
Rahil says, “The thing with corporations is that nobody knows who they are. They can see the benefits of shopping with that corporation posted in its advertising, ‘Unbeatable Prices! Fast Shipping!,’ etcetera. But every chain is doing that. There’s nothing unique in this approach. Customers can research a corporation’s origin story, but its impact on the business is hardly visible. Small businesses maintain their origin stories in their DNA. It attracts customers because you only trust something when you know it well. Use this. When you market, link back to your origins. Tell your audience the ‘why’ of what you do. Let them get to know you, and they’ll choose you over one of the unrelatable ‘big guys.’”
Being small doesn’t mean your business can’t compete. There are a lot of advantages to being a small business. Press on these advantages. Get to know customers personally. Stick to your vision and execute specific goals well. Be open to innovation and listen to feedback. With all of these tools, you can hold your own against one of the “big guys.”