Many small businesses find themselves competing with very large businesses. It is concerning if you share the market with other small businesses, and then a big guy comes to town. This is especially true in retail, but it can affect manufacturers and service businesses, too.
What to do? First of all, realize it doesn’t have to be the end of the line for you. As soon as you know large-scale competition is on the way, start figuring out what your customers value most. How do you know this? Ask them — face-to-face or by a survey. Poll people you meet in your business community. Gather opinions. Then calculate what you can do better than your large competitor that customers will value.
The big guys can almost always beat you in some areas:
- Larger selection, if your a retailer
But you can almost always best them in other areas if you’re paying attention to what customers want most:
- Added value – A book store in my neighborhood is surviving despite Barnes & Noble and Borders stores in the area because they buy back books and offer them in a used book section. They also maintain a good stock of current best sellers and classics.
- Personalized service – All the staff in the same book store knows what they have in stock and can show you where a particular book is in the store. Oh, and if they don’t have it in stock, they can get it in for you in a few days, no extra charge.
- Convenience – Location can be your ally if you’re in retail. If you’re off the beaten path, consider relocating to a space that gives you high visibility and foot traffic with your kinds of customers. Or convenience can simply be pick-up and drop-off to busy customers in whatever type of business.
- Attention to detail – If details can make a big difference in what you offer, you can whip the large competitors on service every time. This is something large companies do not do well. They expect customers to do this themselves. Gain a reputation for keeping on top of the small things.
- Specialty products – Say you’ve been providing payroll services to local businesses, and one of the major payroll service companies amps up a marketing campaign in your area. Find out what services they do and do not offer, and ask customers which ones matter.. Become a specialist in those areas, and you’ll be able to keep customers’ basic business as well.
Scott Allen tells a compelling story in One Place Where Small Business Can Always Beat Big Business. Be David against Goliath.