In an increasingly crowded marketplace, smaller businesses can often feel the strain of competing against corporate giants. When you see a larger company in poll position, it can be tempting to copy their exact strategy. It worked for them, so it’ll work for you, right? Wrong.
Instead, the trick is to focus on your advantages as a small business to gain a competitive advantage – what can you offer that larger corporations often can’t? Here are three reasons why your small business needs to stop copying large corporations and find its own unique selling point.
- Consumers Prefer Independent Businesses
As corporate giants are frequently praised for their supposed convenience, competitive prices and wider range of offering, it’s easy to assume that consumers wouldn’t give smaller businesses the time of day. However, according to a survey by small business loan provider Liberis, 8 out of 10 consumers are planning to use independent businesses in preference to large corporations this year.
This isn’t just a once in a blue moon thing either, for 41% of respondents said they shop at a small business at least once a week. If you’re striving to copy larger businesses, then you certainly aren’t taking advantage of consumer preferences.
The second most popular reasoning for respondents shopping at smaller businesses was to boost the economy, despite there being higher perceived cost. This indicates that consumers are willing to spend more if it means their money will go towards creating a sustainable economy.
Advertise the advantages of shopping small to your target audience, i.e. the opportunity to support an independent business, to feel connected to a community, the added customer experience and higher value instead of trying to copy the strategies of larger corporations.
Initiatives such as Small Business Saturday have also helped with promoting smaller businesses. Held annually (1st December), the campaign is designed to highlight small business success and it encourages consumers to shop at their independent outlet which is local to them. You can find more about how to get involved in Small Business Saturday here.
- Consumers Want to Deal with Humans, Not a Large Corporation
Large, multi-chain corporations have dedicated customer support teams which are often viewed as having outstanding customer service. Based on the Liberis survey however, 51% of respondents said they have experienced a substantial difference between the customer service offered in small businesses compared to larger stores.
One respondent commented “smaller stores seem more genuine and go out their way to help you”, while another explained “at smaller stores the service is more personal.”
Despite larger businesses being able to fund extensive customer service departments, this can take away the ’personal’experience consumers are asking for. You might not have as large a customer base in comparison, but you certainly have more of an opportunity to build strong, long-lasting relationships.
Strive to add a personal edge to your customer service. Customers who like you and your employees are far likelier to support your business. For example, if your business operates in a physical location, then getting to know your customers face-to-face will provide your business with a marketing edge. This can also be extended into your online presence – use social media to infuse your business’ personality into your postings and engage with your customers when they ask you questions or leave feedback.
Remember – the cost of bad customer service for a small business is more significant than a corporate giant, so it’s essential your customer service stands above the rest.
- It’s Their Brand Vision, Not Yours
Having a clear brand vision is crucial for any business. Without one, how could you possibly know your company’s direction? Where exactly would you like to be in the next three, four or five years?
When trying to determine your brand vision as a smaller business, it can be tempting to copy larger businesses. However, if you wish to stand out from the rest with your company’s vision then don’t copy your competitors. Instead of selling products, why not sell an ethos and turn customers from liking your product to loving your brand?
Considering 47% of consumers in the Liberis survey admitted they shop at small businesses to boost the local economy and provide support, your business’ vision could be to partner with more local businesses to enhance the local community.
For example, if you run a restaurant or café your vision could be to develop partnerships with other local businesses by working with butchers, greengrocers and florists to obtain fresh, locally sourced produce. This will create the impression to customers that you are focused on developing the local community.
Also, considering that local independent shops are all catering for consumers in the small, local catchment area, you will perform more strongly against rival corporate giants when you work together. By succeeding locally first, you will increase your chances of achieving the opportunity for growth.