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As a small business owner, it can feel difficult – if not impossible – to compete against much larger businesses, especially well-established megacorporations. Good news, though. You don’t need a giant budget or established infrastructure to compete against those bigger brands and still turn a profit.
In fact, there are lots of ways in which your smaller enterprise can compete against larger brands and win. Not sure where to start? Check out these nine suggestions to start formulating a winning business strategy:
Go Digital for Advertising
In this day and age, the best way to reach your target audience when marketing is to go digital, not necessarily to focus on out-of-home/OOH advertising.
Why? Simply put, big brands probably already have a monopoly on things like billboard advertisements and pure brand recognition. However, your small business can still attract its target audience members if you double down on marketing directly to them. The best vector through which to do that is online advertising.
With online advertising, you can target specific users or site visitors based on things like demographics, website habits, and much more. PPC or pay-per-click advertisements, as well as advertisements that show up at the top of Google search engine results pages (SERPs), can deliver your marketing materials straight to the eyeballs of the people most likely to buy from your brand in the first place. In this way, digital advertising allows you to get more marketing bang for your buck.
Pay Attention to Marketing Trends
Similarly, for your small brand to compete successfully against larger brands, you should pay attention to current marketing trends. If, for example, some advertisements use popular songs or slang, it may not be a bad idea to incorporate those elements into your upcoming marketing materials, too.
Of course, there’s a fine line to walk with this strategy. You don’t want to completely abandon your brand voice or aesthetic, which will be necessary to attract new customers to your business. Still, there’s something to be said for keeping your business up-to-date and modern, especially if you need to attract modern, young people to your store.
Build a Strong Business Reputation
When it comes to small businesses, word-of-mouth is everything. Your customer base is likely a targeted, niche group of people who all talk to each other or influence each other’s buying decisions. To that end, you should focus as much as possible on building up a strong, reliable business reputation.
Word gets around fast, especially in smaller towns or communities. If your brand has a reputation for delivering quality goods or services, others in your target audience will hear about it sooner than you think. That can help boost your customer base faster than you can imagine.
Prioritize Customer Service
In order to get that quality, trustworthy business reputation, you should prioritize customer service wherever possible. Whether that means hiring more customer service agents, offering surveys to customers who have already made a purchase, or something else entirely, make sure that every person who walks into your door or buys something from your online shop feels taken care of and paid attention to.
Good customer service will directly impact the reputation that your brand generates over time. More importantly, it will bring previous customers back to your store again and again. That’s huge for your overall profitability and effectiveness, as well. It costs more to acquire a new customer compared to bringing an old customer back for another purchase.
Over time, you can build up a loyal, strong customer base that will withstand all of the attempts to convert them to a bigger brand.
Reward Loyal Customers
Speaking of brand loyalty, your most loyal customers should be rewarded as much as possible. There are a few different ways you can do this.
For example, you can offer free shipping to customers who make big or repeated purchases or consider offering them other perks and advantages. Alternatively, you can start a store loyalty program.
Store loyalty programs enable your most valued, repeat customers to build up points or other perks as they spend more money at your business. Then they can exchange those points for benefits like discounts, free shipping, access to online forums, reduced credit card fees (the average credit card fee is 4% for digital transactions, for example), or anything else you can imagine that will help your customers save money.
Most importantly, rewarding loyal customers creates a positive feedback loop between those individuals and your brand. The more they engage with your business, the more likely they are to come back.
Maximize Your Designs for Your Website & Storefront
Whether you have an online store, a brick-and-mortar business, or a hybrid enterprise, you need to make sure that your designs for your online shop and retail storefront are attractive and navigable. The better those designs are, the more enjoyable shopping at your business will be, and the more likely you are to attract new customers from “off the street” or from random Google searches.
Good design can do a lot to communicate the feel and energy of your brand, as well. That’s imperative when trying to draw newcomers to your business for the first time and to persuade them to become repeat customers.
Continually Refine Your Target Audience
Your target audience is likely very niche, but you’ll need to continually refine it and narrow down exactly who comprises that audience over time.
Keep doing market research even as your business grows and makes a profit and as you build up enough cash reserves to cover three to six months of operational expenses and recession-proof your business. Your customer base could change over the years, and you’ll need to make sure that your marketing materials are targeted and emotionally resonating with your target audience however it changes.
Get Involved in Your Local Community
Small businesses are often integral parts of their local communities. Your business should be no different.
With that in mind, try to get involved with your local community from a marketing perspective. Host giveaways, participate in barbecues and other community events, and offer your retail space as a place where people can vote, have a party, or congregate or socialize.
By getting involved with your local community, those community members will be more likely to patronize your business instead of a big brand that is headquartered somewhere else across the country. People like to be loyal to their communities, so make sure your business feels like a part of yours.
Hire Rockstar Employees
Lastly, your business is only as effective and reputable as your employees. So make sure to only hire top-tier, hard-working employees who will do their part to represent your brand as successfully as possible. Rockstar employees will improve your profitability, plus put a human face on your organization that can be invaluable when attracting new customers and ensuring that your reputation grows positively for years to come.
In the end, small businesses like yours can and often do win when competing against larger organizations. The key is largely focus. Prioritize a small customer group, give those customers the best service they’ve ever seen, and you’ll cultivate a loyal audience base that’ll be resistant against even the most persuasive marketing campaigns from those bigger brands.
Lee Li is a project manager and B2B copywriter from ShenZhen, China, and is currently based out of Singapore. She has a decade of experience in the Chinese fintech startup space as a PM for TaoBao, MeitTuan, and DouYin (now TikTok).