As a small-business owner, how often have you said, in conversation, “I can’t compete with the big stores?”
How often has a customer been told you can’t do something because this is just a small business?
That sounds harsh, but your words just made you your worst competition.
Instead, offer the customer information on what you can offer: local service; setup help; great returns; more often than not, competitive pricing; and a biggie, you’re part of the local community.
Take advantage of being small. Call customers by name, carry the products they buy or ask for, and help them find what they want.
But the mindset of not being able to match the big store goes deeper. I often hear that small businesses don’t have the skills to do financial reports, the time to do planning, the budget for marketing or the need for technology, especially websites and a social media presence.
I agree you can’t do all of this at once. But it’s possible to get it all done. How?
- Get help. You don’t have to hire people, though. Lots of people willing to work as a contractor. You also may be able to find volunteers.
- Think about the youth in the community. You probably can find young people who are tech wizards, great designers for marketing campaigns and logos, or writers for ad copy and content.
- Check out the myriad marketing books that offer hints on marketing for next to nothing.
- Barter for services.
- Take advantage of overnight delivery. Ship directly to clients.
- Look outside your local area. This goes against what I hope would happen, but sometimes it’s necessary.
The list goes on. Small-business owners are great at bootstrapping. You have a number of chances to put those skills to work.
Granted, doing everything that needs to be done to compete against the big competitor is hard. But remember, you don’t need to do it by yourself. For example, give your staff authority and responsibility. Let them help.
You may respond that you have no paid staff, just family and friends. That’s OK. They may love the challenge of solving a problem or two.
Don’t let being small be your excuse. Look at is as the asset it can be in some instances or nothing worse than a small challenge to work around.
Small is the new big.
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Glenn Muske is an independent expert on rural small business, working as GM Consulting – Your partner in achieving small business success. He provides consulting, and writes articles for county extension agents and newspapers across North Dakota. Previously, he was the Rural and Agribusiness Enterprise Development Specialist at the North Dakota State University Extension Service – Center for Community Vitality.