With competition for winning customers at an all time high across all industries, how can the smaller businesses compete with the giants? Smaller businesses will rarely have the same resources of their larger competitors and can’t rely upon the embedded brand awareness the big players benefit from.
However, there are plenty of ways small businesses can take the upper hand and stand out from the competition.
Provide exceptional customer service
Take time to understand the needs and wants of your customers. Talk to your customers and always listen, and act on feedback. Review complaints and other customer feedback mechanisms.
Tailor your service offering to individual requirements, providing a personalised service. The capacity to do this is one major advantage small businesses have over larger enterprises – and often the reason customers will choose to shop small. On many occasions this may simply boil down to delivering the basics well and always keeping your promises.
As a smaller business, you have the benefit of being more nimble and swift to act than your larger competitors, with a chance to really engage with customers in a collaborative relationship. If things do go wrong, admit it and commit to learning and making improvements to really drive credibility and show you genuinely care about your customers as individuals.
Reward customer loyalty by thanking customers for their business with both your words and your actions. Find ways to create advocates within your customer base. These people will become your best salespeople if you get the right product and referral scheme in place.
Operate and change at pace
Keep your eyes and ears open to the changing needs of your customers. While you should always believe in the product and service you provide, you should constantly be looking for ways to improve. Make decisions quickly and assess results through effective feedback straightaway. Be bold with decisions and don’t procrastinate! But remain humble so you can admit when you do get things wrong (you will) or an idea has failed (it will). Not getting it right 100% of the time will never be your downfall (in fact, it’s inevitable), but not being able to pivot quickly will.
Your business flexibility will allow you to run circles around larger competitors who may be battling much tighter internal governance and red tape to reach decisions and implement change. A fast pace of growth and ability to scale swiftly gives small businesses an edge that customers enjoy and respect.
Be clear on your USP (unique selling proposition)
Work out what you stand for and what you want to be recognized for, and build your values into the foundations of your business. What is it that makes you unique and different from the bigger competitors? Is it cost, service standards, overall flexibility, or something else?
Whatever it is, be loud and proud and educate your current and future customers about how this USP will benefit them better than any other players in the market. The ability to mobilise a united front is far easier for smaller operations than larger businesses.
Always remember to keep listening to your customers to make sure your USP remains aligned with their needs and keep a close eye on the competition to ensure your offering does remain unique.
Build real brand sentiment
You may be smaller than the competition, but your customers can still have a loud voice and be heard far and wide. Embrace customer feedback and make it as public as possible. Engage with Trustpilot, Google Reviews and other public forums.
If you receive negative feedback, publicly show you are listening and want to take action to improve. If you receive positive feedback, publicly show you are listening and are grateful.
Keep listening and keep learning. Always look to the future and try to pre-empt what the needs of your customers will be tomorrow, whilst still recognizing what works well today. As a small business, you are better equipped to get closer to your customers and ask them directly about their changing needs to find great solutions.
Embrace new technologies, but always make sure any decision to invest in products or platform development doesn’t lose sight of the objectives you set out to achieve. It is sometimes easy to want the new shiny toy, without truly understanding what it will do for your business and your customers.
Seek ideas and thoughts from people within your business. Your customer facing teams are full of fabulous ideas and know better than anyone where improvements need to be made to the product and service provided to your customers.
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