When I read about the issues facing small and local businesses, it seems like there is a full-on frontal assault on their very existence! Big-box retailers have long been putting mom-and-pop retailers out of business. eCommerce retailers allow consumers to comparison shop for the best price and conduct commerce 24 hours a day. From the sound of things, the small business owner is doomed!
Fear not, small business owners – there is hope on the horizon!
Greg Sterling wrote a great blog post that discussed these issues and talked about the “do-gooders” who go out of their way to help small business owners compete. In his post he discusses his desire to use a local appliance expert vs. the big-box retailer and that he was impressed with the exceptional service he received. Greg also suggested that technology companies have to go out of their way to assist these small businesses on how to be competitive with the national retailers and eCommerce vendors.
Here at Bizyhood, our primary goal is to partner with as well as educate our customers and the local market – it’s not just being good citizens, but it helps us learn how these businesses operate and what problems truly matter most. We believe the community is the solid rock that individuals rely on, and the local business owner stands firmly on that foundation. We also believe that small and local businesses have significant advantages over their larger and virtual competition that they are not leveraging. These include:
- Selling by value, not price – as Greg mentions, customer service tends to be significantly better at niche businesses than the big box retailers. There certainly are people who will absorb your expertise and then leave to buy a product for a cheaper price – but most savvy consumers understand that the relationship doesn’t end at the sale. Promote the lifetime value of a relationship with your company – the return on that investment extends well beyond the price of a clothes dryer.
- Get the word out – this is tough for the local business owner. They tend to let their work and service speak for themselves. We’re not suggesting anything more dramatic than asking your customers to spread that word of mouth online as well as offline. Get them proactively (and regularly) giving you public feedback. Give them incentives for sharing positive stories and directly referring business. Your larger competitors do this systematically. You can do it personally. You have the advantage. But you lose this advantage if you don’t do it!
- Connect with the community – most big box retailers do not engage actively with the community. This includes other business owners, local publishers and commerce organizations. There is unique benefit to the community itself, and just like you should be promoting word-of-mouth online, you want to cultivate community online as well. Your customers are online as much as offline today, and clinging to the “old fashioned” ways of connecting with your customers just isn’t enough. It takes a little time and education to maximize your effectiveness online, but the cost of not doing it is just too high – you have to want to help yourself in this case – there is no magic that will allow you to keep doing marketing that way you always have. The great news is there are tools that are specifically tailored to small business owners that won’t cost too much and won’t take up too much of your time. You need to invest, just not a ton.
If you’d like to learn more about how to modernize your small business marketing efforts to include online digital marketing, contact us. We want to see you grow and thrive. You can compete with the big boys and even thrive. Let us show you.
PS – We hope you are all participating in Small Business Saturday next weekend!