You’re sitting at your desk in your office. It’s another day of struggling to make ends meet. You thought owning a small business would give you financial freedom, more time with your family and give you control over your future. The reality is anything but. Expenses are high, sales are low and there is little if any money left.
You see your dreams slipping away as your competitors with better cash flow gain more customers while your company slowly fades away. But before you raise the white flag and quit altogether, know that you CAN compete even if you are small and have a limited budget.
Your dreams can come true; all it takes is your time and a little creativity.
The Power of Your Story
As the founder of your small business, you are in a unique position to personally connect with customers by sharing your story. Your story also helps to set you apart from the competition. We’ve all had someone tell us to just be ourselves, and it’s also a valuable trait in business. You may not be accustomed to talking about yourself, but in this instance, modesty is not the best policy.
Today’s customer values authenticity in the companies they buy from. They want to know the real you, form a relationship with a company they can identify with and one who shares similar values. While product features are important, what customers really want to know is:
Who are you and what you can do that your competitors can’t?
Help customers identify with you by sharing your values, passions, as well as any hurdles you’ve overcome in business and in life. Any ties your business has to the community where you’re located or a cause you’re involved with are a plus. You can show that you’re more than just another business out to make money.
The goal is to leave a lasting and favorable impression in your customers’ minds. It’s not about being the same as your competitors; it’s about being different. Focus on what is unique about you, your product or service and how you alone are the answer to your customers needs.
What is your special something?
Be Proud of Your Strengths but Humble of Your Weaknesses
You may think you know what they are, but it’s your customers’ point of view that counts. If you’re not sure, post a survey on your website or send a feedback form to customers after they’ve made a purchase. The results will help you pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses.
Needless to say, emphasize your strengths and address any weaknesses. Focus on the areas that are mentioned the most. Even your weaknesses can be used to connect with customers when you tell how you listened to customer feedback, made changes to resolve the problem and how it’s improved your business.
Does the positive feedback point to an area that will help you stand out and give you a competitive edge? Focus on creating a niche in this area and become the go-to source for it. Specializing in this area can be the key to your success.
How can your unique strength give you a competitive edge?
As a small business, you have a distinct advantage of being able to pivot quickly and change while big businesses often find change difficult to implement. They also don’t have your ability to specialize. With numerous products and services to sell, salespeople can have difficulty knowing the subtle details of every product. You will now be in the position to provide customers with an experience they can’t get anywhere else.
Don’t be one of the masses. Be the leader.
Get Ready to Shine
Now that you’ve defined who you are and how you will set yourself apart from the competition, it’s time to get the word out. Many small business owners make the mistake of thinking that the only way to make sales is to sell to “everyone.” The fear of missing out on a customer causes this “spray and pray” mentality. Unfortunately, the end result is often a depleted budget with nothing tangible to show for it. You’ll get a better ROI when you target only those customers who are most likely to make a purchase from you.
Avoid the spray and pray approach.
The internet is often the first place customers go to get help so you should consider your company website to be your online storefront. First impressions are critical as you only have a few seconds to quickly convey who you are. You need to clearly show what benefits customers will enjoy when they do business with you that they can’t get from a competitor. All of your work so far should be incorporated into your website copy as part of a buyer experience built around your target customer.
If you’re short on advertising dollars, content marketing is a cost effective alternative. It uses the power of the written word to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined target customer. There are several methods of content marketing you can employ. Company blogs, email, social media and your website copy are some examples.
Just remember that whatever form of content marketing you employ, quality and consistency are crucial so customers get to know, remember and get accustomed to your company. If you need help with this, a content marketer who specializes in helping small businesses can be a valuable investment and can still cost less than traditional forms of advertising.
If you are a local business, your current customers can help promote your company. A company listing on review sites such as Angie’s List and Yelp is becoming essential. Not only does it help boost customer trust, it can also improve your local SEO. If you aren’t on any review sites yet, sign up for a free listing. Then ask your customers to leave their feedback.
Make Them Smile
Make every touch point with your company reinforce who you are and provide a memorable experience for customers. Nurture them in order to foster positive associations with you and treat each one as a valued asset. Let them know you will always be there to help and you’ll see customer retention improve. The individual attention you give each customer will give you an advantage over big businesses, leading to more new and repeat customers.
Make it your goal to always exceed customer expectations.
While larger competitors can always outspend you, as a small business owner, you can uniquely position your business to compete against them without having their budget. There are many additional ways you can make your business more competitive than what I’ve described here. You are only limited by your imagination! In the comments section, let me know how your small business stays competitive.