I had the opportunity to hear a talk with Jim Brady from Billy Penn presented at the LION Publishers conference recently. One of his big thoughts is “It’s awesome to be small”. His focus was on hyperlocal publishers competing against the large national publishers. Jim suggested that instead of the limitations many local publishers will say on the left of each of the lines below, you can rather focus on the opportunities on the right:
Not enough staff → Not too much staff
No infrastructure → Less overhead
Can’t cover everything → Can cover anything
Less history to build on → Less history to overcome
Less brand recognition → Total ability to define brand
Difficulty growing revenue → Not facing revenue implosion
Have to develop your voice → No limitations on your voice
Too small to succeed → Not big enough to fail
Hyperlocal small businesses can look at this in a similar way. We hear all the reasons why the mom and pop shop cannot compete with the large corporate brands on Main Street. Taking inspiration from Jim, we’d like to help you turn those lemons into lemonade! Here are our 5 reasons it’s awesome to be small as a hyperlocal business:
Little budget to compete with large brand advertising spend → No need to spend a lot to reach your audience
Relative to a national brand, local businesses are servicing an extremely small slice of the market. And your knowledge of that local market will be better than any national brand – so you know the places (and people) that have influence and how to reach them – much more effectively than the large brands do.
PRO TIP – don’t get caught up in Marketing strategies that focus on anything outside your core market and market segment. For example, you may be hearing about Yelp and Foursquare all over social media, but unless you are a restaurant, chances are there’s very few people looking for what you do on those platforms.
Little staff to post to social media and do my online marketing → No need to push content outside your focus area, so a much smaller staff is enough
This is related to #1. Large brands are going after every social media touchpoint – the volume of people they need to reach is so large, they have no choice. But you have a lot of choices. You don’t need such a large volume of people seeing your social media posts, and you definitely do not have the money to make it so! What you can do instead is get intimate with your customers – specifically ask them where they spend their time online, and ask permission to reach out to them in those places. The beauty is that you know your customers, and the big brands don’t.
PRO TIP – if you don’t have a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system, make sure you are (at least) capturing your customers email addresses and cell phone numbers. Ask customers if you can text them specials and reminders – it is by far the most effective strategy to reach people (better than email and all social media channels combined).
No tech talent (and little money) to build fancy apps → You can get most everything you want/need in the cloud today
It has never been a better time to be a small business when it comes to IT support. Nearly every enterprise software segment now has a “cloud” offering or two. Cloud software (also known as Software as a Service, or SaaS) usually has a very low entry point (sometimes even free for limited functionality) and significant features. It used to be that large companies would spend millions of dollars for functionality you could only dream of offering, but no more. You can compete in this space, but you do have to recognize it will cost hundreds (maybe thousands) of dollars – a small and worthwhile investment in your business.
PRO TIP – There are tools from companies such as Zapier that allow you to integrate multiple SaaS based solutions together to create your own custom solution. It’s always good to get a trusted and knowledgeable IT professional to assist you with these types of efforts, but as mentioned earlier, it’s cheaper, easier and more efficient to create scalable IT solutions for your business than ever before.
Less brand recognition → Total ability to create and define your brand
What differentiates you from your big box competition? Typically, we hear local knowledge and customer service as the top differentiators. Yet when we look through our local papers and coupon clippers, advertisements almost always talk about price. Anybody can be the low price leader, and most of the larger brands focus their efforts there (Wal-Mart, anybody?). Why not create a brand that is unique and something very few others will compete with? And why not try a few different things and see what works best? Large brands have invested a lot of money on their brand, so switching it is a big deal. You have the flexibility to mix things up.
PRO TIP – Run A/B tests when you place ads or run specials. Try different messages in your outreach and see which one works out best. This can be done with advertising, social publishing, email.
Can’t reach all my target customers → Don’t need all of them on Day 1 to be successful
The ability to create “viral” word of mouth is virtually impossible. It seems like it happens all the time, but when you consider the number of videos and programs that were built to go viral as compared to the ones that actually do go viral, the odds are extremely low.
However, your “virality” doesn’t need to go too far. If you are patient, focus on the people and places where your word can spread, and encourage/promote online feedback to places that are highlighted in your local community. You’ll find that people are talking about you in all the right places! You don’t need to go viral nationally – you just want visibility in your local community.