Remain Locally Competitive: Tips for Small Businesses

Businesses like Home Depot and Wal-Mart offer convenience and affordability to many consumers. The harsh reality of this is that the Wal-Marts of the country tend to sap business from small local businesses. These smaller entities offer similar inventory but are unable to keep their prices comparatively low for several reasons, mostly due to tax breaks and inferior resources.

There are very few industries whose local small businesses are not threatened by larger competitors, or at least the prospect of them moving into the local community. It’s important for all businesses to prepare for the potential impact.

Heed the tips below to remain locally competitive against big businesses.

Remain Locally Competitive: Prioritize Customer Service

One of the most common criticisms of large companies like Wal-Mart is that their customer support is severely lacking. In a thorough article on Kabbage that touches on this issue, several business leaders stressed the importance of customer service for local small businesses in response to the subpar customer service of larger competitors.

“Many people have found that not only is the quality not always there, but the customer service [of larger competitors] is lacking,” explains Craig C. Powell, CEO of 5 Block Radius. “We know what we do and we love it, and we want to create those feelings for our customers too!”

What Powell and many other prudent CEOs of small businesses are doing is emphasizing customer service, recognizing that quality of customer service is determined by effectiveness, not size.

So while the Wal-Marts may be able to outprice small businesses, consumers who recognize the importance of customer support – which is many – would rather pay a little extra for that, as opposed to saving some on a product.

Maintain a Prominent Internet Presence

With practically everyone on social media now, a business would be foolish not to capture their audience on the Internet. Small local businesses should use their local connections and pride to connect with locals in the area. This can be done in two ways:

  1. Regularly providing interesting content on social media
  2. Showing support for the local community

Both tasks can be easily accomplished with tweets or Facebook posts.

As this Entrepreneur article explains, it’s important for businesses to nurture their social media following because Google ranking regards social media presence as a prominent factor in its algorithm. A small business has a smaller scope than big corporations, but the small businesses are able to better provide a humanized, personal experience to their followers, a fact that they should take full advantage of.

Strive for a Highly Connected and Collaborative Company

A Forbes study found that companies who utilized enterprise collaboration platforms to better connect their company experienced a 12% increase in sales, a 75% decrease in support calls and a 75% decrease in the time required to generate and maintain content.

Indeed, seamless collaboration and communication makes any business more efficient by providing employees with a transparent flow of information that can better aid their tasks and result in a more optimized work environment.

Speaking of collaboration, some small businesses could prepare for an incoming larger corporation by considering a collaboration or merge with another small local business specializing in a similar niche. There are many strategies based on collaboration and connectivity that can excellently prepare a small business for a larger competitor.

Appear Professional

It’s important to remain personal and connected with customers on a more intimate level than that of larger businesses, but small businesses also need to exude a certain level of professionalism reminiscent of these larger corporations. It shows a level of organization that consumers are confident in.

Small businesses should strive to make every aspect of their business professional, from the way they answer the phone to general attire to the design of their business cards or web site.

Focus on a Niche

Superstores like Target or Wal-Mart may be able to cover mostly every industry, but there’s rarely a passion for that niche demonstrated by employees or the general selection. A small business, on the other hand, can choose to focus on a niche to a substantial extent, holding events that would interest this demographic.

Provide Personalized Value

Many big-name stores are great at providing value when it comes to costs; however, small businesses are able to provide personalized value that large business cannot. Providing customized services and a more personal approach can greatly enhance the value a customer feels they are getting. For instance, contracting company Sunshine Contracting offers a learning center and free estimates to provide enhanced value to their customers throughout projects.

Small business can also provide media representative of their passion, such as a YouTube tutorial for the field. For example, a local hardware store could create a video tutorial on how to build a deck chair, which has the chance to go viral and provide advertising that rivals the large competitors. By presenting this tutorial to their audience on social media, they’re providing a valuable resource. They also affirm that they are truly passionate about the subject and should be considered the knowledgeable go-to source in the local area.

The prospect of a Wal-Mart moving into town can be daunting for small local businesses, but the tips above can help them prepare for it by embracing local roots and small business passion. Any quality small business can compete with the likes of Wal-Mart, Target and Home Depot with the right strategy.

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7 Questions To Answer Before You Market Your Business

What if I told you there was a simple way to kick start your business, where you spend less money, and annoy less people? Are you interested? Would it sound like magic? To me it would. But, it’s not magic. It is just marketing 101 stuff. But, this marketing 101 stuff so so so many people get wrong.

Yea you can ignore this marketing 101 mumbo jumbo. And instead hit the streets, start the cold calling and push your ‘ultimate 10% off offer’. But, how far would that get you? Not very far. And it would probably annoy.

But, as a wise old man once said to me ‘I don’t take shortcuts, because they take to long’. Let us, you and me, be honest, no short cuts, and answers these 7 simple marketing 101 question.

1) Who is Your Target Market?

Marketing is just a word for communicating what we do and how we help.

If you say ‘everyone’ is your target market you need to start over! Seriously! Why? Because a) not everyone wants your product and, b) Addressing everybody is not practical. Not enough money in the world nor hours in the day. Just. Not. Possible.

Do this instead. Choose a slice of the market, a niche, that is already served, enter it, then position yourself differently.

Yes, entering a market with competition sounds counterintuitive. The premises is sound. If a niche has competition then people are buying. If people are buying then profit is being made. All you have to do is position yourself differently from the others and you will attract your audience.

And you positioning yourself differently with your voice, your viewpoint, your expertise, customer service, or with testimonials.

The alternative is a finding a niche without competition, the classic gap in the market, and convince people who are not buying to buy. That is way, way more difficult than positioning yourself differently in a profitable market.

Another niche is to sell to (and lead) a group which you are a member of. The premises is people will buy from you, because you are one of them. Think of this as the insider helping insiders, a tribe if you will.

Tribes is not new, Seth Godin, wrote a book, about it ‘Tribes’. People gravitate into groups around a leader or ideas. Use your tribe to your marketing advantage. Rally like-minded people around your product, your idea, or your cause.

2) HOW will this Niche Become Aware of What you Have?

In marketing parlance this is the promotional part of the 4 P’s. Promotion suggest advertising and pushing. And no one likes be sold to.

How will your Tribe know about your products? If your niche is your tribe of like-minded people, then talk with them as normal and show what you have. Selling will take care of itself.

If your niche has competitors, assess their tactics, then do one better and market from your own angle.

Remember all your online business emanates from your home base — your website.

Yes, you can interrupt people with advertising, but, chances are you’ll get ignored if you don’t have a compelling story to tell them. Leading us to number 3.

3) WHAT Story are you Telling, Living, or Spreading?

The most engaging and memorable marketing is marketing told through stories. Big brands do this expertly in 30sec TV ads. The ads show how lives are transformed, get better, or are improved.

Yes, a story. But, why stories? Why not just ‘here’s our features and benefits buy from us’?

Because our brains are more active when listening to stories and stories activate the language processing parts of our brains. Both help us relate and connect with your brand easier.

Yet, the best story is the how peoples lives are transformed, improved or are better.

Stories are great only if they connect with existing beliefs and views people have.

4) Does Your Story Resonate With their Worldview?

What does your audience believe? What do they want? What are their fears?

Marketing Personas is a one powerful tool in your toolbox helping you focus your messaging to a subset of your market. Better than using marketing personas, is identifying prospects worldview.

A worldview is how people view their world. E.g. what should we do next? What is right or wrong? How should we reach our goals?

Tapping into the worldview of your audience focuses your messaging and builds a deeper bond with people.

Apple did this with their Think Differently campaign. The rallied cry called people:

…the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the trouble makers, the round pegs for square holes, the ones who see differently…

And it worked expertly. It worked because people identified themselves in this campaign. And we all identify with being a rebel at some stage in our lives, or being a trouble maker, and we all fell the system, puts round pegs into square holes.

Find the worldview your audience associates with and foster it.

Take, for example, two families. Both sets are married, home owners, have 2 teenage kids. One a VW family, the other a Ford family. Both sets work full time. One is a Apple product family and the other Android and Windows family.

Would the words and images in your marketing be the same for each family? Are the worldviews the same? No, probably not. If you ignore their worldview you’ll speak the wrong language and annoy people you want to attract and waste your money.

5) WHERE is the Fear that Prevents Action?

For us, as owners and marketeers, action is a signup/registration, or phone call or a sale. So identify the fear preventing our prospects from taking action?

Is the fear the basic I must ‘Know you, like you, trust you’, before I buy from you? Does your website ooze confidence (trust). Is social proof is missing – testimonials and social shares. Or maybe the fear is internal. Or maybe people want your product, but, just not today.

Figure out what fear is holding people from opening up their wallet and giving your their cash.

6) WHEN do you Expect People to Take Action?

If your answer is I want action ‘now’, then ask what is keeping people from saying, ‘no, I’ll buy later’. Because deferring decisions to later is safer and easier.

As owners want people action now, so figure out and fix, that part of your marketing funnel ‘allowing’ people to say I’ll take action ‘later’.

7) WHY Would People Do Business With You?

Seldom is the features and benefits of your product stopping the sale.

So, ask yourself, why would people do business with me? Is it your charm, your good looks, your humour? Maybe it’s your customer service? Or it’s the hand written thank you card after an order? Or a voucher for a coffee?

Further, what will your customers tell their friends about you? And if you ask your customers – ‘why did you do business with me?’ Will you be pleased with the answer?

And what would happen if take their answer and lead your marketing the it? As we know customers speaking about you (earned media) is 100x more powerful then you talking about you.

Kick Start your Marketing

To kick start your business and annoy less people — answer the 7 question. And like magic you will attract the right people, repel the wrong people, spend less money and be massively ahead of your competition.

Wow. That sounds like cheating.

Want to cheat more? Download for FREE this Worksheet, it walks you through the 7 question to Market your business and Annoy Less People.

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