With big businesses like Amazon dominating so much of the retail marketplace these days, you may think that new entrepreneurs would be afraid to start small businesses. Today’s small business owners are understandably worried about competing against these retail giants, but that worry isn’t holding them back. The truth is that small businesses have something to offer that customers are looking for. You can use these strategies to deliver on those expectations and put worry about competition out of your mind.
Give Yourself Room to Grow
We all know that Rome wasn’t built in a day, but even though you need patience and a long-term plan, you also need to give your business room to grow from the start. Some new entrepreneurs make the mistake of waiting until they’re established to focus on development and growth. You can avoid this mistake by focusing your effort where it matters most.
Even if you’re currently a one-man or one-woman team, you can keep your focus where it needs to be by delegating tasks. You don’t necessarily have to hire staff to do this. Some tasks, like developing your brand, data entry, customer service, or staying on top of social media can be done if you hire a virtual assistant. Hiring a freelancer is a smart business move for several reasons. For one, it frees up your time to focus on growth. It also makes your business look more professional because you’re getting the job done by someone who has the right expertise. Fortunately, it’s easy to find freelancers through online job boards because they are designed to help you connect with qualified professionals, from graphic designers to virtual assistants.
Along with focusing your time on what needs to be done on a daily basis, you should always keep one eye on the future. Two of the best ways to focus on growth, according to Entrepreneur, are to research your competition and identify new opportunities. If you have an online business, researching your competition may include what draws customers to big retailers, but you should put more energy into what other small businesses are doing. You can learn from them to see what works, as well as what you’d like to do differently.
Expand Your Definition of Customer Service
It may seem like a no-brainer to say that customer service is an area where small businesses can excel compared to big competitors. As obvious as this may seem, the power in this statement comes from understanding a broader view of what customer service is. Forbes explains how excellent customer service comes down to understanding your customers.
You have to:
- Know what customers want.
- Truly care about your customers’ needs.
- Know how to communicate with customers effectively.
Even as your business grows and you hire employees, you always need to stay on top of these three customer service strategies. Small businesses are known for providing better customer service than big companies, but it doesn’t happen automatically.
Create a Rewarding Experience
When customers have more than one choice where they can do business online, it takes more than stellar service to make them choose you. Customers also make choices based on ease of use and value. You may not be able to match some retailers’ rock-bottom prices, but there are other ways you can give customers a good value and build loyalty at the same time.
- Reward Loyalty: Your first hurdle is to get new customers in the door (even if that door is virtual). The next step is to keep them coming back. Setting up a loyalty rewards program is one way you can compete with the low prices of other retailers, and it makes better business sense to offer these deals to repeat customers. As an added bonus, customers feel valued when they get to cash in those rewards. In this way, offering loyalty rewards is about more than just savings for your customers (and increased sales for you). It’s also a way to develop a strong business/customer relationship.
- Incentivize Referrals: Just about everyone has recommended a good movie they’ve seen or a favorite restaurant to a friend. Encourage people to do the same for your business! Tie referrals into your loyalty program so customers get an extra discount (or whatever special works for you) when someone they refer becomes a new customer.
Focus on Next-Level Marketing
No matter how amazing your customer service or rewards are, customers don’t exist if they don’t know what you do. To ensure customers know who you are, you need a marketing plan that includes the basics: a website, content marketing, online advertising, email marketing, and social media. These marketing basics do more than just get your name out — they also give you the opportunity to connect with customers in a way that feels personal. This personal connection is a benefit you have over big businesses, and it’s a trend that’s here to stay.
Social media is especially important because it allows genuine two-way communication: When you engage on social media, customers see the people behind your business, and customers use it to show off their love of your products or services. Sure, big businesses are on social media too, but small businesses are in a position to really use it as a way to understand their customers and respond to demand on a scale that bigger names can’t keep up with.
Beyond the marketing basics, take your marketing to the next level by engaging with your local community. Get involved and give back to a local charity where you live or sponsor a local organization like a sports team or school. Even if you’re an online business, connecting with your community helps develop a positive reputation that translates into increased traffic.
This is just one example of how your small business can still become a local, household name, even in the digital age. There is room for small businesses among the competition. You just need smart strategies for setting yourself apart in order to carve out your place in the market.
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