Sunday, December 14, 2014

Compete Where it Counts

Thinking about the competition is enough to keep a small business owner tossing and turning all night. And based on what you know, this seems understandable. After all, how are you supposed to go up against larger, well-established competitors? What chance do you have? Just who do you think you are?

Well, it turns out you’re quite something! According to small business expert Ramon Ray, there are loads of reasons why competitors, no matter their size, should be losing sleep over you. There’s never been a better time for small businesses—and the movement to shop local and shop small is on the rise. Customers seek to make personal connections now more than ever, and it’s far easier to get this extra attention from a small business. Consider the popularity of farmers markets, or craft-beer breweries, or service companies that latch on to the local community for their brand.

“Worry can paralyze people,” noted Ray. “And if you pay too much attention to what the competition is doing, they end up guiding your strategy, not you. You do need to be aware of what they’re doing, but the key thing is to focus on what you’re doing right.”

A common concern is pricing—it’s pretty much impossible to compete against the muscular purchasing power of large corporations. And although there will always be consumers who are entirely price-driven, for a great many people, pricing alone isn’t the determining factor. Capitalizing on areas where you can deliver a better experience can make all the difference.

Try to:

  • Focus on customer service with a personal touch.
  • Empower staff to get to know customers and act on needs.
  • Provide special perks and deliver personally (e.g., educational seminars online or in-person).
  • Get involved in the community beyond donating funds (e.g., staff volunteer days or sponsor a local sports team).

Since they are generally closely connected, small businesses are more responsive to customers. They can act swiftly as there aren’t layers of management to work through in order to make specific customer accommodations. This kind of speed and agility, noted Ray, ranks high with most consumers. Isolating what changes you can make to set your business apart from the big guys, whether that’s in your sales cycle, general customer service or retention strategies, (and actually making those changes) will set your business apart.

According to Ray, the size of your business doesn’t necessarily matter. “Sure bigger companies have lower prices, but if you’re a small business, you’re operating in a whole different way and going after a different customer. Focus on really knowing your customers, giving them what they want, serving them well and wowing them. You’ll find there’s plenty of room for competition


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