Competing against larger, more established brands can be frustrating and intimidating. Time and time again, however, small businesses have shown that niche brands can be just as successful as their larger counterparts through differentiation and adaptability.
While you may not be a Fortune 500 corporate giant with a multimillion dollar marketing budget, there are business practices you can implement to ensure your brand survives for the long haul. Here are four ways your small business can compete against large competitors.
1. Be Agile, Nimble and Quick
Unlike large corporations, small companies can often refine and reshape their business model to respond to fast-moving markets. For example, a local clothing retailer may be able to quickly create products to capitalize on fashion trends or quickly pull inventory based on declining demand and underperforming styles.
Big businesses will have the advantage of size and scale. But they won’t be able to respond as quickly to market trends, because of internal red tape and bureaucracy. “A well-tuned small business can easily outperform its larger counterparts in customer service, trend identification, product output and quantity control,” states Henry Elkus, chief operating officer and director of philanthropy at Unlimited Ltd. Clothing.
Thus, once you find your niche market, maximize those sales opportunities in areas where your business’ small size and ability to act quickly prove to be market strengths.
2. Differentiate and Innovate
“As a new firm, you’ll need to do something better, cheaper, faster or amazingly different in a way that won’t put you directly in the crosshairs of a big, powerful company,” says University of Chicago professor James Schrager. The way that a small startup can accomplish this, says Schrager, is by creating a product or service that’s different and unique in its own way.
The agility of small businesses means that you’re able to innovate more quickly than a large corporation. Encourage your own team to constantly experiment and collaborate around new ideas, and draw from your own well of passion to foster what is commonly referred to as a “culture of innovation.”
3. Polish Your Web Presence With a Stellar SEO Strategy
Your website is your online calling card – it’s where people can find you, and where your brand can really shine. A solid SEO strategy will help you be found more easily when people search for the services you provide.
Back in the early days of search engine optimization (SEO), the more inbound links and keywords you peppered throughout a webpage, the greater the likelihood web visitors would see your page at the top of search engine results pages (SERPs). As you’ve probably learned, the days of keyword stuffing are over. Your SEO strategy must focus on creating high-quality content that users can understand and share. For best results, target niche and local audiences, and take advantage of long-tail keywords.
4. Celebrate (and Listen to) Your Customer Base
As the popular mantra goes, cultivating customer relationships is paramount to attracting new customers and retaining existing ones. This is even more true in today’s world, where internet and social media allow customers to engage with businesses much more actively.
You can even crowdsource and let your customers be part of the product development process. Harvard Business School professor Carliss Baldwin tells business owners that, when it comes to turning to customers for innovative ideas, “Accept the reality that they collectively know more than you do about whatever it is your company makes, that technology has almost completely democratized the design process, and that these user-innovators, thanks to the internet, can go through an iterative process much more quickly and cheaply than was true in the past.”
Hence, it pays to profile your customers. Find out what makes them tick, what gets them excited and what their expectations are, especially when it comes to customer care and service delivery. In addition to offering niche products and services that stand out from those offered by larger brands, keep in touch with clients through surveys and post-sale questionnaires. Surveying client feedback and tailoring your product offering to meet changing client tastes will bring you one step closer to building a strong and fiercely loyal customer base.