Ways Your Small Business Can Compete with the Big Dogs

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By: Marissa Perez

Whether your small business is just getting off the ground, thriving, or in a slump, one of your biggest concerns is keeping it relevant to stack up against the competition. Doing so prevents you from getting lost in a sea of similar products and services. So, how can you set your small business apart and compete with the big dogs?

Provide Amazing Customer Service 

You may be a small business, but your smaller size means you are better able to build and maintain meaningful relationships with your customers and improve customer retention. So, don’t let your customer service be an area that’s sorely lacking. Set some customer experience goals and make all employees aware of those benchmarks. Speaking of employees, make sure those you hire are emotionally intelligent and provide training to help foster any shortfalls. You’ll also want to equip your employees and business with the right tools to create a seamless customer experience via help desk software and live chat features.

Consider a Brick-and-Mortar Space

It seems that e-commerce is where it’s at, but don’t think that physical space is a waste of time. According to Business.com, 94 percent of sales happen in a physical store. The reason why? Well, it varies, but the most common reason is the ability to see and interact with a product before making a commitment. Plus, the customer service we discussed earlier is easier when consumers can see a smiling face rather than text on a computer screen. You’re a small business, so the cost of setting up shop — literally — may be setting off alarms. Thankfully, the Small Business Administration (SBA) is here to save the day by offering real estate loans. You have two options: the SBA 7(a) loan and the SBA CDC/504 loan, but the latter is the most common for small businesses like yourself. Do your homework to find the right option and rate for you. 

Take Advantage of Your Ability to Innovate

Small businesses can change direction on a dime, pushing out a new product or using a new supply source. This ability to switch focus easily is what sets you apart from those larger companies and competitors. If you’ve been toying with the idea of altering your current product or providing a new product altogether, start developing and testing right away. Survey current customers and gather ideas from them. Perhaps you’re thinking about switching up your supply source to better meet customer demands. If that’s the case, dropshipping might be something to look into. In this scenario, you are removed as the middleman, and the supplier ships the products directly to your customers, lowering your risk, reducing overhead, and no more paying for inventory until a customer makes a purchase. There are lots of products that can be sold via dropshipping — kids' clothes, shoes, electronics, gadgets, and even trendy items like fidget spinners, for example — so take a look online and see if you could benefit. 

Increase Your Efficiency

Large businesses have the luxury of huge departments, each dedicated to a certain task or service. You’re small, so having all hands on deck to increase efficiency doesn’t leave you with many (if any) hands left to handle other areas. Find ways to automate, whether it’s hosting meetings remotely via video conferencing, automating invoicing, or using accounting software. There aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything and be everywhere at once, so hand the torch off so you can focus on the areas and tasks that need your immediate attention.

Build Your Reputation

Big businesses have a big reputation, but big doesn’t necessarily mean better. Your small business is in a unique position to capture the locals’ attention and become a welcome part of the business community. Tap into the community (and build your reputation) by hosting events so people can get to know you and vice versa. Stay active and be a visual presence by volunteering or hosting a charity event. Connect with other businesses and help one another to create a lasting impression and framework for success. Keep in mind too that with the holidays coming up, you have a great opportunity to draw in new customers, so look for ways to offer deals and seasonal events, and don’t forget to decorate!

Sure, being a small business comes with challenges, but large businesses have their own unique challenges too. What sets you apart is how you overcome those challenges so that you are competing right along with the big dogs.

Build Trust to Build a Successful Business

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Pixabay - CCO Licence

It’s arguable that trust is the single biggest factor in whether your business is successful. Think about it, would you trust a business that you knew virtually nothing about, whose reputation was shady and who kept the important stuff secret with your money? Probably not, right? So you can’t expect customers to come flocking to your new business if you don’t do anything to build up trust.

The good news is there are lots of relatively simple things any entrepreneur business owner can build a trusting relationship with prospective customers. Here are a few of the simplest and most important:

Register Your Company

It should be a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many entrepreneurs launch their business before they’ve dotted the I’s and crossed the T’s. Sure, you might be raring to get started with your latest money-making idea, but you do need to get all of the legalities in place and using a company like Your Company Formations to officially register your business is a good place to start. That way, prospects who are looking for assurance that you are legit can easily find it by looking at your company up at an official source. You’ll have to do it eventually anyway, so do it at the beginning.

Be Honest

It would be near impossible for you to build trust with customers and clients if you lied to them. Honesty is the foundation of trust and that is why you need to build honesty into everything you do. If, for example, you know that you can’t realistically offer 1-day shipping, be upfront about that or if you know that it’ll take 2 weeks to turnaround a project. Don’t be tempted to say you can do it in one just to persuade a client to buy.

Sure, you might get a few more customers upfront, but when you can't deliver, they won’t come back and they’ll tell other people about your unreliability/lies and word will spread that you can’t be trusted. Obviously, things do go wrong sometimes and you may occasionally be unable to deliver, but as long as you’re honest from the start, upfront about any issues and able to compensate appropriately, you should be fine. In business, honesty really is the best policy. 

Leverage Social Proof

Social proof in the form of reviews and testimonials is an excellent way to build trust in your niche. People like to feel confident in their buying choices, and if they can see that lots of other people have used your products/services and had a decent experience, they will be far more likely to become a customer themselves. That’s why you should offer any incentives you can to get customers to leave you a review. 

However, you should bear in mind the above point about honesty and avoid buying fake reviews because not only is it dishonest, but it’s far easier to spot than you might think. Not only that, but you should also let unflattering reviews stand -you can add your piece rebutting any remarks you think are unfair but don’t delete them. When all customers can see is row after row of 5-star reviews, they are going to trust your business less, not more.

Create a Solid ‘About Us’ Page

One of the things customers initially do to scope out a new business is to check out the ‘About Us’ page on its website. If it’s a well-written page filled with lots of solid facts and information about you, your business and what you do, including any incorporation details, an address and telephone number, they are far more likely to trust in you. Sadly, many businesses use this page as another ad for them, filled with lots of sales copy, and this can be very off-putting. Build trust by really putting yourself out there.

Be Visible

Not only to build trust but to build interest in your brand is to be visible. Post content about yourself and your efforts to launch the business day to day, including lots of videos and pictures, on social media and people will be able to see for themselves that you’re genuine with everything that you do.

Make trust the foundation upon which you build your business from day one and you will not have to struggle nearly as hard as others in your niche to build up a strong, loyal and happy customer base. It really is that simple.

Take Control of Your Business: Tips To Help You Do It

Starting a business can be risky. It requires a lot of hard work, dedication, and a positive attitude to succeed. Being an entrepreneur means that you may thrive on unpredictability and volatility.

However, we all know that wanting something and working towards it is always the best course of action. So with that in mind, here are some handy tips to handle your business like a true entrepreneur.

FemFounder Notebook

Image source - Pixabay - CC0 License 

Think about your brand

Branding is everything. How you brand and the whole aesthetic of your business need to remain consistent. This means that your advertising, marketing materials, website, social media content, and publicity materials—even the way you talk about your business all have to coincide with your brand.

A brand is what people remember the most. Imagery and eye-catching designs, being the face of the business, all can help you achieve great success. It’s best practice to research the market thoroughly. If you can find a unique selling point to your business and brand that will always help you in the future. 

Use social media to your advantage

Social media could be one of your biggest assets. It’s the one way you can get your business message out there to the masses. Your business can get in front of thousands, maybe millions of new and potential customers. It’s as easy as sharing your business message and promoting consistently.

Your brand is very important to your social media strategy so bear that in mind when you start your business. Websites like marketing gurus could be the ideal place to look at to help you with this and other marketing aspects. 

Get your business out there in as many forms as possible

This means creating a website and using advertising to your full advantage. A website allows you to showcase your business in its full capacity. This could be an online shop, a description of your services and hold all relevant contact information. Advertising in online and print publications can also be a fantastic way forward. This could help you get your business message out there in a strategic and targeted manner. 

Be prepared for the downfalls

In business, you have to be prepared for every downfall. This could mean staff can let you down. Stockists unable to deliver when expected and even grievances against you and your business. It’s vital you protect yourself in every eventuality. 

Accept that a successful business takes work

Finally, a true entrepreneur will know, that a successful business takes work—lots of hard work. It will require the very best of you. So early mornings. Late nights in the office and plenty of positive motivation to match. However, an entrepreneur will always tell you that all of the hard work is worth it. To have built up your own successful business from scratch, there is no other feeling like it.

Let’s hope these tips help you to take control of your business. 

Time to Move Your Startup Out of the House? Four Solid Reasons to Get Your Own Office

When your home-based business is growing, you might start thinking about the possibility of moving your “work” out of the house. Exciting times! But when can you be sure that your baby startup is ready to leave the nest? If you spot a few of these telltale signs, it may be high time you started packing up your desk.

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Image Source: Pexels CC0 Licence

Your Home Office is Holding Your Business Back 

Launching a startup from home is a brilliant way to give your new business a sure start in life. You have very little in the way of overhead to pay (note, you may be even able to claim some of your home utility bills back from tax as a business expense!) and not having to keep “normal” business hours means you can throw yourself into your work, day, and night.

But once business starts picking up, being located far from your city’s business district coupled with a cramped workspace and lack of professionalism could be dragging you down and will eventually take its toll on your rate of growth. If you’re beginning to get a little antsy in your small space, or you’re driving down the road to hold your important meetings in your local coffee shop, you may be sacrificing crucial expansion opportunities.

Your Business Can Definitely Afford the Rent

If you weren’t already a financially savvy entrepreneur, you wouldn’t be in a position to consider getting your own office at all. That said, signing that dotted line on an office lease is a scary prospect for a small company. Of course, you will aim to secure cost-effective space, but this is easier said than done as a small business, as office space leased for short-term periods is extremely pricey. And remember that rent is not the only expense. You’ll also have office running costs, like utilities and office supplies. Moving costs can also be high, especially if you have a lot of equipment. Check out https://www.mybekins.com/location/sarasota-fl-movers/ for an excellent, cost-effective option when the time comes. If getting an office is not looking like an imminent prospect, after all, you might consider co-working as a lower-cost option.

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You are Confident in the Future of Your Business

To get a lower-cost monthly bill, you’d need to sign on for up to ten years, and what early-stage business can afford to be so bold? But how do you know whether your business will continue to thrive?

Before you take the plunge, it’s crucial to understand how sustainable your business model is. Moving you into an official company location is a pricey undertaking, and if demand doesn’t continue to increase, the financial shock of high rent and utilities could be a real setback for your accounts in the long term. If you’re even considering workspace solutions, you should be feeling confident in your cashflow projections. If your profit has been stable for at least a year, and your projections show blue sky for the foreseeable future, then you should totally go for it.

You’re 100% Certain That Running a Business is What You Want to Do

If you’re thinking of signing a lease on an office, before you sign up for even a couple of years, you need to be sure that your business is here for the foreseeable future. Even if you’re doing well, you must be sure that this is your calling, and you won’t be tempted to throw in the entrepreneurial towel and take a tempting job offer when potential employers head-hunt you for the skills you’ve shown in starting your own business.

Whether you employ a couple of helpers or you’re a one-man-band, moving into your first office can be daunting for a small company. But if you see the signs, it could be time to take the plunge.