As a small business, it’s easy to feel intimidated by large organisations – especially if they’re on your local turf. However, you have several advantages over big brands, so there’s no need to worry! It is possible to compete with the major chain down the road. Here’s how to use your appeal as a small local business to win the favour of customers in your area over the big brands.
1. Find Your Unique Offerings
The national chain three doors down doesn’t know your customers. They can’t tell you who just had a baby, whose children are going off to university, or the latest big birthday in town.
You have a huge advantage in being able to offer a truly personal, one-to-one, service. People enjoy feeling like they are being treated well: turn your shop or business into a great customer experience.
Find other ways to compete. Can you offer an after-hours delivery service, or a telephone order service for elderly people? Take orders over the phone for a list of groceries, for example, and hand-deliver with a smile. People will pay extra to have such a personal service, and it’ll generate loyalty for years to come.
You have the ability to go that extra mile and become a memorable spot for your customers, far more so than a big, nameless chain. So use this!
2. Use Your Local Community To Your Advantage
Show you’re proud of your local area and business roots – something as simple as having framed A1 posters of local landmarks can have a big impact on how people perceive you.
Be a local marketing hero: sponsor local sports teams, get involved in community events, and make sure your brand is seen taking part. Make sure people in your neighbourhood realise that you are truly invested in the community – and not just trying to sell to them. Simple things, such as donating prizes to charity auctions, or sponsoring a local awards night, will get your brand noticed by the movers and shakers in your community.
Once you’re comfortable with doing things like this, you can spread further afield. Turn to neighbouring communities, and see if there are other local independent businesses you can partner with to create exclusive offers.
You could also look into attending – or even creating – a network for independent local businesses like yours. This’ll really help you stand out as someone who cares about contributing to their community instead of being a faceless corporation renting shop space on the high street.
3. Use SEO And Social Media To Spread The Word
Of course, here at instantprint, we’re all about printed media. However, we live in a digital age and you can use this to a huge advantage. You’ll be able to level the playing field with the major chain competitors in your area using just a few simple online steps.
Make sure your website SEO matches up to your offerings. Tweak it to reflect what you do, but also where you do it. Even if you can offer your service nationally – as a graphic designer, for example – start local, as people are more inclined to hire someone nearby.
Take advantage and claim your Google My Business page. Write as much information as you can, using words that fit your services AND your neighbourhood. For example, if you run a fancy dress shop in Edgeware, use phrases such as ‘Edgeware Party Shop’, ‘Fancy Dress In Edgeware’, and ‘London Costumers’ to catch local searches. This is particularly helpful when it comes to mobile search users: they are far more likely to pop into a shop if they’re in your area and Google ‘dress up shop’, as they can see that you’re only a few streets away.
4. Host Events For Your Community
As well as sponsoring local teams and donating prizes to charity raffles, consider hosting your own event. This could be a celebration of independent businesses on your local high street, a new product launch featuring local faces, or a business awards night to celebrate entrepreneurs in your region.
Events are a great way to get your business known, and your brand recognised. Use everything from flyers and posters to branded event tickets or programmes to make sure your brand is seen everywhere. Make sure people know who is hosting their next big local event!
5. Deliver Quality That Can’t Be Beaten
Stand out by delivering quality at every step. Whether this is having top-notch carrier bags instead of cheap plastic ones, or mailing out a presentation pack to local businesses to introduce your services, make your products and print media reflect the level of quality you’ll provide to your customers.
It could mean adding a few pennies to the marketing budget – but this will pay dividends. Sending out quality takeaway menus will make your restaurant be the go-to choice: you make an effort with the marketing, so you’ll make an effort with the food. That’s how people think!
Your flyer will be the one stuck to the fridge in case someone needs a plumber in an emergency, or wants to know about the latest events in their area. Investing in quality materials does two things:
1) It says you care about your customers by not ‘cheaping out’, and
2) It makes you look like you’re successful – even if you’re on a shoestring budget.
The illusion of success is a huge factor in competing with major chains. If your prospects get the impression that you are an established, cash-rich business, they’ll think that people already want to work with you, are investing in you, and trust your business.
Trust is your trump card. People find it hard to trust major chains where, if they have a problem, they have to go through a team of scripted customer service agents. They’re much more likely to trust you, though, as a face on the local business scene who cares about quality and who is approachable.
If they feel like your service is better quality, they’ll be willing to pay for it – even if your prices are higher than your major chain competitor down the road.
Instead of trying to compete directly with the big chains, make sure that your unique offerings as a small, local business are clear to your local community.
People will soon realise that your prices are still competitive, you contribute to the local area directly, and you offer a one-to-one service that the major chains can’t match.