Being a small business can be your competitive advantage. You can be quick, responsive, and flexible. You can keep your organization flat.There is an interesting discussion on this going on in the comments at Chris Brogan’s Small is a Weapon.
But what about being from a small town? Is that a disadvantage?
Clients from big cities may dismiss you. I get that surprised reaction all the time in the social media world.
“How did you ever get into this from a small town?”
Hey, we have internet, and high speed. We even get sunshine three days a week now. (I never said it was rational, but it is there. A lot.)
Do you get similar reactions? How do you respond? Or do you turn it around and focus on small town clients? Or not let anyone know where you are?
Care to share your experience in the comments?
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Grant D. Griffiths says
While I have lived in a rural area almost all of my life. There are certain services the rural area has to have to be a weapon or an alternative to the “big city.” We have to have reliable infrastructure, such as communication in phone and Internet. And until the providers take the users and the market seriously in the rural area, we may be an empty weapon.
I am speaking at a conference and will be on a panel in September about communication and Internet and what we need in the rural areas to be competitive. Not only what those of us who are already here to be competitive. But what we need to be an alternative as a place to live and raise children over the “big city.”
Yes we can be a weapon even if we are small. However, we have to have the weapons and supplies to fire those weapons.
Becky McCray says
Grant, you raise some great points about competitiveness, and infrastructure. If we can get up to speed, we can compete with businesses anywhere. And as more of us do that, we can start turning around that attitude of surprise!
Jay Ehret says
Small towns can be a weapon if they think like a small business. Like Chris said: respond rapidly, be streamlined, move faster. Those are things you can’t get from a big city.
But in other ways too, a small town should act like a small business. The most important step would be to build a distinguishable brand as a small town. Specialize in something, be known for something. For example, be the town with the highest per capita college graduates. Or be the “green” town, the tech town. Be something other than just a small town.
The one thing a small town should not do is try to act like a big city. Don’t try to be all things to all people and don’t add layers of bureaucracy.
Becky McCray says
Jay, thanks for adding some thoughts for the municipalities. Not many small towns take the time to even consider their brand.
Carl Natale says
I know a consultant based in Portland who faced pressure to move out of the state to be closer to where the business is. He felt that being close to the airport (PWM) was close enough. Meanwhile, another consultant felt we wasn’t taken seriously by Maine businesses until he moved to Portland – the state’s biggest city.
But perceptions may change. Sorry I don’t have an URL handy but the AP ran a story over the weekend about professionals choosing small towns because of quality of life issues.
A small business needs to make its location decision as part of its marketing. Don’t just give a Willie Sutton answer (“That’s where the money is”) but explain your choice based upon quality of life or it’s where the best people are. Make people believe they would have made the same decision.
Your customers aren’t just buying your product, they’re buying your story. Make your location part of it.
Well, Carl, I think you have hit the nail on the head: “quality of life” is prime in one’s choice of living and working in a small town.
Becky McCray says
Carl, thank you for those stories and suggestions.
I know the AP News story you’re talking about. It was “Professionals Find Jobs Back in Rural Hometowns.” Recommended reading!
An example of the technique you describe is Our friend Ted Demopoulos. He is selling from a rural area, and making that part of who he is. His “About” page tells where he lives and why.
One of the wonderful things about the internet is that when you’re doing business online the size of your town doesn’t matter. I live in a town in Maine so tiny it was the last in the country to have a crank telephone system (I’m so serious the modern phone system was only put in in the 80s) but now we have even have high speed internet here so there’s little I can’t do that a small business in a larger city or state can.
Exactly, Noadi, with the effective use of the internet, the physical location of a business is of little importance.
What if you live in a small town in the middle of the rust belt with more abandon factories and highest per captive drug and sex trade than any other city in Pennsylvania? With an outstanding corrupted local government that stalls any economic development programs unless they are getting a kick back or are to narrow minded and technology illiterate, (trust me the majority of the population seems to be living 20-30 yrs in the past) to take any risks.
Anonymous, I am sorry for your condition, but from your poor grammar and mis-use of case, it seems a fair portion of your problems might be addressed with a little more education in writing English.
The point of this site is to encourage innovative solutions–sort of “end around” the problems. And, you can always move.
Also, this is a friendly site and we don’t see a need of anonymity.
I see big-town vs. small town as a service level trade-off:
(small-town business) Customize the service for a small number of customers, for higher per-sale margins,
(big-town business) Standardize the service for a large number of customers, for lower per-sale margins.
If done well, either strategy can be profitable. For example: Local Home Hardware Store vs. Home Depot store.
Very interesting, sred, very interesting. Thanks for rendering it down!