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Small businesses may seem at a disadvantage when compared to larger firms simply due to their restrictions: most have smaller staffs (sometimes as little as two people), smaller budgets, and fewer resources to draw on. However, thanks to a number of different factors that have come into play today, small businesses can actually hold their own in the market, even if they’re directly competing with big businesses. Here are six different ways that small businesses can make themselves competitive in today’s economy.
1. Be Yourself
Big businesses are, well, big. They have thousands of employees, and while they do have a mission statement that outlines what their business is about, that mission statement is often fairly general and may be very similar to their competitors. Why not be yourself and tell your business’s story in your own words? Get to the heart of what makes your small business unique. Customers are much more likely to react to businesses when the owner has a passion for what they are doing than for corporations that simply provide products. Think of the business leaders who have had documentaries made about them. What made these people different? Their passion.
For example, if you start a cloth diaper business, don’t simply say that you want to be environmentally conscious. Talk about why that’s important to you. What does it mean to want to help the environment, and why did you choose diapers? If you’re a parent yourself, how does this tie into your business? The more personal you make it, the more likely customers are to respond.
2. Use Technology
There are many different types of technology out there that small business users can harness to make their companies much more competitive. Some of this technology makes it easier for a smaller staff to do things, such as effectively manage your client relationships or social media. Others make systems much cheaper, allowing you to stretch your limited budgets further. For example, Cloud Based Business Phones let you avoid spending the money you’d need to spend on traditional phone systems, plus they give you the ability to take your phone number anywhere. This helps employees who are often on business trips stay connected, which in turn makes them more effective employees.
Some businesses out there actually market specific products to small businesses. These are most often tech companies that have developed solutions that meet small business needs. Take advantage of these offerings because these large companies may just be handing you the keys to competing with them.
3. Take Advantage of Being Small
While it’s easy to see the advantages of being a huge corporation over being a small business, there are actually times when it’s better to be small. If you identify these advantages and make use of them, you may find that you can grow in ways that a larger business simply can’t. Here are a few of these advantages:
4. Empower your Employees
With larger businesses, employees often feel like they are simply cogs in a machine. They go to work, they do their job, and that’s it—they don’t have any real input or say in the business beyond their department. However, since smaller companies have fewer employees, business owners can take the time to talk to each one individually and even let them have some input in the direction of the company. Of course the owners still have the final say, but by making employees feel like they have a voice that is heard, they are more likely to have a higher job satisfaction rate.
Keeping your employees happy by listening to them can be a key factor in employee retention. Larger businesses may lose experienced key personnel if they aren’t happy, while small businesses may retain their best employees since they feel like they are a part of the business, just not another employee.
5. Build Personal Relationships
With a big corporation, chances are the only person who knows a customer’s or vender’s name is the employee who works directly with them. There’s no real relationship with the business beyond that employee. The only customers who may get special attention are those who have large accounts and spend thousands or even millions of dollars with the business every year.
With a small business, this doesn’t have to be the case at all. It’s possible to build a relationship with customers and vendors on all levels because there are often fewer of them. Repeat customers will become noticed, even if they don’t spend a huge amount of money each time they shop with you. Cultivate these relationships—highlight venders and suppliers on social media, interview customers for your blog, and celebrate their successes with them. Treat your customers well and they will reward you with amazing word of mouth advertising.
6. Use Social Media
In today’s digital age, it doesn’t seem like anyone should be told that they need to use social media, but there are still small businesses that don’t. Social media sites and blogs let businesses of all sizes put themselves out there. Of course, big businesses do have some advantages here—they can pay for more promoted advertising, for example—but small businesses aren’t left out in the cold. With a little work, you can create a social media profile that hits your target demographics and brings in more business.
Do you have any ideas on how small businesses can be competitive with much larger companies? If so, we’d love to hear them and share them with others.