How Your Small Business Can Compete With Large Retailers

It's hard but not impossible to challenge the big boys.
Cartoon up against the big guys
Greeting customers by name is an advantage that can help small businesses compete with big business. (Photo: Cartoonresource/Shutterstock)

How can local small businesses compete with large stores that have low prices, lots of inventory and a giant advertising budget?

Here are some year-­round strategies to put in place that can help you take on the big boys.

Dig into customer details

One of the big advantages of a small business is the potential to get to know loyal customers. Although big box stores have email blasts, loyalty reward programs and other aggressive ways to keep in touch with customers, a little personalization can go a long way.

It’s an advantage for a small business owner to be able to greet customers by name when they enter your store. Give a big smile and an offer to help them find what they need. If you have a new customer, be sure to introduce yourself and get their name, too. If it’s appropriate for your business, have customers fill out a survey so you can identify your key demographic, send a birthday greeting and promote special sales.

Take full advantage of Small Business Saturday

First observed in 2010, Small Business Saturday encourages holiday shoppers to support small and local brick-­and-­mortar businesses. The shopping day, held annually on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, was created by American Express and has grown each year.

The Small Business Saturday website has many tools and tips so you can capitalize on the day. The site will help you create free, personalized marketing materials, get a digital banner, signage and more to help attract current and new customers.

Give Back

In a recent study by the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund, 62 percent of small business owners say that giving back to their community has helped them become more successful.

A tight budget and busy schedule might have kept you from exploring ways to give back, but there are affordable strategies. You can support your community in a way big box stores can’t.

Introduce your business to a new demographic by volunteering your time. Put on a branded shirt and work at a local charity event. Donate water bottles with your businesses name to a school fundraiser. Sponsor a youth sports team. Get creative and get your name out there.

Pay attention to branding

“A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.” — Jeff Bezos

WalMart, Pepsi, Google, Disney. “Megabrands” have spent billions making sure they are recognized globally. But branding isn’t just for the big guys. Paying attention to your brand can pay off – regardless of your business size.

Your first step is to develop a great company name with an eye-­catching logo that crafts a distinctive identity. If it’s in your budget, spend some marketing dollars to hire a consultant to help you nail your message, voice and tone.

Empower your customers

Current and potential customers determine how your brand is perceived in the marketplace. There are simple ways to turn customers into brand ambassadors for your small business.

Easy steps include asking for reviews on sites like Yelp and Google+ or offering a discount for a social media check­-in. This will keep your brand top­-of­-mind, and your message will reach across your customers’ networks. If you have a Facebook page or Twitter feed, be responsive to online feedback. Address the good and the bad promptly to show your customers that they are important to you.

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