Time and time again we hear stories of how yet another big corporation has run a mom and pop shop out of business. It actually seems to be a trend these days. Maybe this even hits close to home for you, as your business has experienced the threat of a large competitor. As much as you may wish it wasn’t so, competition is always going to be a factor in how well your small business performs, but thankfully, size doesn’t always have to be the deciding factor in who comes out on top. It’s all about the strategy. Let’s take a look at three strategies that can give your small business a competitive advantage against larger corporations.
Offer unique products and services
For every business venture, there is an existing market with plenty of competitors offering the same products or services. Therefore, it should be the goal of every small business to stand out in the midst of the crowd. In order to do that, your small business must create products or provide services that will revolutionize the way people think about your niche.
Let’s say you want to start a restaurant. Does your menu offer something that cannot be found anywhere else? Even if you’re serving the best food in the city, that alone is not always enough to bring customers into your restaurant. There has to be something unique about the overall experience that will draw people’s attention. Everyone wants to try the restaurant that floats or is on top of a skyscraper or that has an interesting theme (i.e. a particular era, genre of music/movie, etc.). Even changing the floor plan (think brands like Subway and Chipotle) can make a big difference in a customer’s interest level.
You may have started your small business with a unique angle that set you apart from all of your competitors, but if that’s not the case for your business, it’s never too late to start. Take some time to analyze your products or the services you offer and compare them to those of other businesses in your industry. Determine how you can modify what you’re bringing to the table so that potential customers would choose your business over your competitors. Just because you’re a small business doesn’t mean that you can’t set the trends for your industry.
Identify your target demographic
Once you’ve established what’s unique about your small business, you need to determine which group of people would appreciate your product or service the most. Many businesses waste a lot of time, money, and energy marketing their products to people that are not likely to ever become customers. Maybe large corporations can afford to approach marketing with a hit-and-miss type of attitude, but most small businesses do not have a large marketing budget, so it’s imperative for them to have a very specific marketing strategy.
Let’s look at Red Bull. This company began selling their beverage with an unspecified target group in mind. As a result, consumers were confused about whether Red Bull was a soft drink or a sports drink. So, they regrouped and decided to target college students, since they would most likely need energy boosts to get through long nights of studying and writing papers. To that end, they geared their commercials towards young people, began hosting events, and relied heavily on social media. Quickly, Red Bull became the go-to energy drink, and has become the most popular energy drink worldwide.
Identifying your target demographic means that your marketing strategy can be equally targeted. Once you know exactly who you’re trying to reach, all you have to do is determine where you can typically find them. If your small business is geared towards stay-at-home mothers, think of all of the locations where you could find these women. You might consider handing out flyers or coupons at mommy groups or taking out ad space on mommy blogs. Be creative in your appeal to potential customers. Offer discounts or create events that speak directly to a need your demographic may have, and you will quickly see an increase in interest and sales.
Engage with your customers
It goes without saying that if you have a store front or if you are providing a service for a customer, you should demonstrate stellar customer service. Every interaction your customers have with your staff should serve as a reminder of why they like working with your business. But once the initial service is complete, your customer service should not end there.
Most often, we only hear from customers when they have a complaint. There aren’t many people who will reach out to your business to let you know that they were pleased with a product or service. One of the best ways to know how your products and services are faring with your customers is to reach out to them yourself. If you have a customer who frequents your store, the next time they come in, ask about their experience with the last purchases they made. If you provided a service for someone, call them or email them to follow up and see if they are still satisfied.
One benefit of engaging with your customers is that as you get to know their preferences, they can inform decisions you need to make for future products and services. There are some business moguls, like the Kardashians, that actually take to Twitter to find out what their followers/customers would be interested in buying. The tweet appears as a fun little survey (i.e. “Would you prefer this color or this color?”), but the responses ultimately act as free test group information, and they influence the decisions that are made. This kind of strategy not only helps you, but it helps your customers feel more invested in your small business when they see that you care about what they think.
These are just a few strategies to boost your small business’s competitiveness in your industry. Which of these do you employ already? Which ones can you apply to your business?
~ S. Wasike, Team Tuxedo Impressions LLC™