As a small-business owner, how often have you said, in conversation, “I can’t compete with the big stores?”
How often has a customer been told you can’t do something because this is just a small business?
That sounds harsh, but your words just made you your worst competition.
Instead, offer the customer information on what you can offer: local service; setup help; great returns; more often than not, competitive pricing; and a biggie, you’re part of the local community.
Take advantage of being small. Call customers by name, carry the products they buy or ask for, and help them find what they want.
But the mindset of not being able to match the big store goes deeper. I often hear that small businesses don’t have the skills to do financial reports, the time to do planning, the budget for marketing or the need for technology, especially websites and a social media presence.
I agree you can’t do all of this at once. But it’s possible to get it all done. How?
- Get help. You don’t have to hire people, though. Lots of people willing to work as a contractor. You also may be able to find volunteers.
- Think about the youth in the community. You probably can find young people who are tech wizards, great designers for marketing campaigns and logos, or writers for ad copy and content.
- Check out the myriad marketing books that offer hints on marketing for next to nothing.
- Barter for services.
- Take advantage of overnight delivery. Ship directly to clients.
- Look outside your local area. This goes against what I hope would happen, but sometimes it’s necessary.
The list goes on. Small-business owners are great at bootstrapping. You have a number of chances to put those skills to work.
Granted, doing everything that needs to be done to compete against the big competitor is hard. But remember, you don’t need to do it by yourself. For example, give your staff authority and responsibility. Let them help.
You may respond that you have no paid staff, just family and friends. That’s OK. They may love the challenge of solving a problem or two.
Don’t let being small be your excuse. Look at is as the asset it can be in some instances or nothing worse than a small challenge to work around.
Small is the new big.
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Small Biz Survival says
Tom Shay sent this comment by email:
I can’t do what the big stores do. Then again, the big stores cannot do what you can do. Wasn’t Wal-Mart’s retiree at the door thought to be Sam’s attempt to retain the small store feeling?
Make a list of the things only you can do and then exploit that list. If you can’t make a list, then you are not giving your customers any reasons to shop at y our business.
Thanks, Tom! Great points.
Peter La Fond says
I recently stumbled across your blog and love the advice these articles provide! For readers and post author, I’d be cautious about taking up certain suggestions. Specifically, recruiting ‘volunteers’ to work in your business. In California, using volunteers in a For-profit enterprise may be illegal and result in a very big fine. Yes, this law is so wrong for many reasons; but it is the law in California (unfortunately). Refer to this article about a Northern California winery being fined over $100k for using volunteers. http://www.mercurynews.com/my-town/ci_26541167/castro-valley-winery-fined-115-000-using-volunteers
Glenn Muske says
Thanks for your insight Peter. It reinforces why you need a team of professionals, including an attorney, to help you chart a course for your business.
Becky McCray says
I’ll add that it isn’t just California. The US Department of Labor takes a dim view of using volunteer labor anywhere in the USA.
For some other ways to find help without hiring, consider these 10 suggestions from 2008. Just be sure everyone is legally compensated.