Chihuahua on Great Dane's back

As the owner of a small business, you’ve probably asked yourself the following questions more than once:

“How can I possibly compete with the big guys? Their resources and staff? Their advertising and marketing budgets?”

For starters, while we’ve come to think of small as the underdog, small isn’t always detrimental in business. In fact, being small often lends itself to being more nimble and more personalized, especially when coming up against lumbering giants (David & Goliath and all that).

To compete with the big guys you need to understand the advantages of being on the small side and how you can make them work for you, instead of against you, in your business.

Advantage: You can react and change quickly.

A great example of small businesses reacting quickly is the recent Pokémon GO craze. Many businesses were able to recognize this trend and react before the big guys even had it on their radar. Without having to go through a major marketing roll out or a significant investment, many small businesses simply printed signs and posted them in their windows or changed the messages on their sidewalk signs to share the Pokémon love. (It’s not too late to jump on the Pokémon bandwagon by the way.)

Make it work for you:  Don’t let fear of a wrong decision keep you paralyzed.  When something new comes on the scene that requires little upfront investment on your part, embrace it.

Advantage: You can start small.

If you want to try something, you don’t have to go all in from day one. You can take baby steps and get a feel for something before pivoting your whole business in that direction. If you’ve always wanted to offer green services but aren’t sure if your customers will pay premium for them, you can introduce them on a small scale first without changing the whole direction of your business.

Make it work for you: You don’t need to make a major investment to try something new. Test it first on a smaller scale to see if the idea has legs before going big.

Advantage: You can try new things.

With the freedom to try new things, you can easily adapt to changes in you business environment. You have the flexibility to launch a new product, take on a different type of client, or change your pricing. so use it. Want to offer a new service to your customers? Rolling out a new offering for your small business won’t take months of planning and implementation. If you decide your new offering isn’t working the way you planned, you can quickly cut it or alter your approach.

Make it work for you: Don’t get too set in your ways. Use your ability to try new things to keep your business fresh and relevant.

Advantage: You can see results quickly.

When you make a change or try something new, you don’t have to wait long to see results. You’ll know fairly soon whether what you implemented is working for your business. Just make sure you’re measuring the results with metrics that make sense for your business.

Make it work for you: In order to analyze results quickly have goals and metrics in place before making a change that impacts your bottom line. Need help? Try these tips.

Advantage: You can get to know your customers and what they value.

Chances are there are fewer layers between you and your customers than there are in a larger business. This direct relationship can give you invaluable insight into what matters to your customer and what they expect when it comes to doing business with you.

Make it work for you: Keep the lines of communication open with your customers. Here are seven ways to get customer feedback.

Advantage: You can provide a personal experience people will talk about.

People value personal relationships, but they also value their dollar. If you can’t compete on price, offer something that your customers value like a higher quality product, personalized service, or attention to detail they can’t get anywhere else. A great example is walking into a local hardware store with friendly attentive staff versus wandering around a big-box store trying to find an employee to help you. Easily accessible customer service can be enough to get your customers talking.

Make it work for you: Give your customers a reason to come back with a highly personalized experience that they value and will share with their friends and family. Here’s plenty of word of mouth statistics to back this up.

Advantage: You can copy what works for bigger businesses.

What do customers like about bigger businesses and chains? They can be perceived as more predictable, more convenient, and sometimes less expensive. Or as research shows, bigger businesses and chains tap into a need for consistency in a world of change. Customers can be uncomfortable with the unknown and default to a more established, familiar brand, because they recognize it and there’s less perceived risk involved.

Make it work for you: If customers want predictable, give it to them with regular hours, reliable and responsive customer service, and consistent quality.

Advantage: You can avoid what doesn’t work for bigger businesses.

On the flip side, a larger business can also be perceived as impersonal, cookie cutter, lacking character, and only caring about making money. Being an independent business means that you aren’t forced into a lockstep of how things should be done. In fact, you can intentionally steer clear of the things that make the big guys undesirable.

Make it work for you:  No need to follow the big guy’s mold and inherit their bad habits. Create your own unique way of doing things.

Advantage: You can stand out.

It’s not enough to be unique, you have to hammer what makes your business different into your customers’ heads over and over again. The more comfortable you get talking up your experience and what makes your business unique, the easier it will be to set yourself apart.

Make it work for you: Be able to say what makes your business different, and say it often.

So what if you’re small? You have the freedom to do things you’re own way, so go for it.

Our mission at Swift Capital is to unleash the potential of every small business by providing them with fair and convenient access to working capital. We harness data and technology alongside personalized human expertise to see the true potential in every business. Did you like this post? Tell us what you’d like to see on our blog. Email us at newsletter@swiftcapital.com or tell us here.

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