Once upon a time, there was a little business. Started in a bedroom, it shouted out from it’s small corner of the world: “Here I am.” Sadly, the voice went unheard. The giants of business, Amazon, eBay, and all the other big boys crowded it out and this tiny business scurried away, never to be seen again.
A sad story, but one that has become commonplace. These online behemoths have taken the market share away from smaller businesses, both online startups and retail. The battle to survive is tough, so it’s no wonder many businesses are closing their doors. So, what can be done about it? How can the tiny business raise it’s voice and be heard amongst the crowd of larger businesses who have a bigger foothold in the consumer market? Will Amazon rule the roost forever? If you are a small business owner, you may understandably be quaking in your boots, but our first piece of advice is this: DON’T GIVE UP. You can take on the Goliaths in the business world, and while you may not slay them entirely, you can still take up arms and go toe to toe with them. Here’s how.
- Sort out your brand
You’re not the only business out there. Aside from the giants, you are also competing against the other smaller businesses trying to make an impression. While we don’t want you to crush your competitors, you can be still be heard amongst the throng by getting your branding right. By standing out with your own branding image, you will be noticed by the customer. Add this into your marketing strategy and by getting your brand out everywhere, you will soon become ingrained into customer consciousness. This is how Amazon, Coca-Cola, etc. do it. Their logos and taglines are known worldwide, giving them the recognisability factor, even without their company name at the front and center.
- Get yourself out there
Getting your brand out into the world is important, but you don’t only do this through your marketing. YOU must get out into the outside world yourself, taking your brand wherever you go. Embody your brand with your passion, taking your enthusiasm into every business meeting, conference, and trade show that you visit. Shake hands with others (even if they are your business rivals), push your business card onto others, talk about how wonderful your service or product is, and make people listen. There is no such thing as a wallflower in business – look at the example of Steve Jobs, who took to the stage at every opportunity, displaying his passion for Apple (even if some of his company’s products were very little different to previous models). He sold his brand by shouting it out to those who would listen. It was his excitement that drove sales. The iPad 4 may have been little different to the iPad’s that came before it, but his personal voice and his branding voice drove the public wild with buying frenzy. Can you do the same? You may not have the money to market your business in the same way (yet), but you can learn from his example when you are out in the public eye.
- Learn from big business mistakes
The bigger they are, the harder they fall, right? Some of the larger, most well-known businesses have fallen flat on their faces over the years. They have made mistakes that have angered the buying public, and sales and customer opinion has dropped as a result. Nestle continues to be in the public eye with it’s alleged unethical practices around baby milk. Amazon have come under fire for the way they treat their employees. Facebook recently went under the spotlight because of the data scandal. These companies aren’t infallible. Admittedly, they have so much money that they aren’t likely to go into administration any time soon, and their PR teams do work wonders. Still, you can learn from their mistakes. You can make sure your business is ethical. You can treat your employees with better care. You can make every effort to keep your customer data secure. And if you do make mistakes? You could hire a PR team, but do what these other companies often fail to do. Admit your fault, apologise to others, and make a vow to your customer that you will do better. Honesty is always the best policy.
- Spend your money where it counts
You don’t have the budget of larger companies, but so what? By channelling what money you do have in the right places, you can enhance and improve your business, rather than sinking your money (and your business chances) into a hole you won’t climb out of. So where should you spend? Areas of marketing that will make a difference, such as affordable SEO and digital marketing techniques. Brand design is imperative (as we have already discussed), so get a web design company on board to promote your business. Technology is another useful area – you don’t always need the very latest equipment, but if something is going to profit your business, invest your money into it. Spend where it counts and your business will start to flourish.
- Focus on customer service
Without customers, you aren’t going to stay open for long. So keep them as your focus. What can you do to make their lives better? How can you manage your service to improve their experience? By getting them on your side, you are going to benefit from their word of mouth, with great customer reviews and social media recommendations. By adding a personal touch (which is something the bigger boys often fail to do), you can garner a loyalty to your brand. By duplicating what big businesses do right (such as Amazon’s one-day delivery/free shipping promise), you can also go toe to toe with them and increase customer satisfaction. You may never get the sales that the online behemoths do, but you can still sustain your business by finding customers and keeping them with your excellent service.
Once Upon a Time
Once upon a time, there was a small business which operated out of a bedroom. “Boo,” said Amazon and “begone,” said eBay, but the little business stood firm. “You don’t scare me,” it said, and little by little it moved forward with passion and confidence. People took notice of this little business. “Who is this newcomer?” they whispered amongst themselves, and hearing their whispers, the little business shouted from every rooftop it could find, “It’s me!”
Steve Jobs started this way, Jeff Bezos (Amazon) began this way, and in his college bedroom, Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) began this way too. You may be small fry now, but everybody has to start somewhere. So we say again, DON’T GIVE UP, fight, and don’t let the big boys grind you down.