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.