how to build a business

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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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.