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marketing strategy for small business

How Small Businesses Can Compete with Big Brands

The competitive nature of today's business climate has produced a curious trend: Big businesses are now thinking small.

One large grocery chain recently announced the launch of a new value-oriented store aimed at projecting a smaller brand image. The goal is to grow the chain's base among millennial shoppers and earn loyalty from a group that could ensure future prosperity for the grocery chain. (1)

This isn't a unique approach in today's marketplace.

For all of their competitive advantages, several multi-national corporations are recognizing that size does not always win points with people, particularly among consumer segments that value authenticity and reliability over price (2). This trend is also inspiring big brands to look into niche markets for the first time, putting competitive pressure on small businesses that are used to occupying these spaces. How can the smaller players in commerce stay competitive with Goliath-sized brands? The answer lies in knowing the strengths and weaknesses of everyone in the game, and using them to your advantage.

Customer service
Large brands have vast resources that small businesses simply cannot match, but that also comes at a price. The larger an organization gets, the more difficult it is to provide good customer service. Prolonged service disruptions and frustrating phone calls with company representatives are daily experiences people have with big brands. Small businesses, by contrast, generally offer more satisfying customer service. Every customer matters, and when you make customers feel important – by aligning your brand with good service and backing it up with consistent, reliable action – you will have a tremendous advantage.

Size eventually becomes a liability for many large companies. Even the most agile and tech-savvy companies struggle to adapt and respond to new trends in the marketplace, many of which emerge literally overnight. Small businesses can focus on creating and executing innovative ideas that help them stay competitive in their niche, and do it with speed and agility that large brands cannot match (3).

Strategic Alliances
Small merchants sometimes find themselves going toe-to-toe with a major corporation in a bid for new business. Your company might be outmatched by the scale of services your competitor provides, but a closer examination will reveal they have weaknesses as well. You may be able to subcontract with them to fill in those gaps, or even join forces with other small businesses to create a more even playing field between you and your competitor (4).

Strategic Planning and Authenticity
Even though small business owners run simpler operations, they should still plan and follow a marketing strategy, just as larger companies do. Make sure you exploit every advantage you have in the collective mind of the customer and use those assets to differentiate your business from competitors. You should also strive to personalize your brand as much as possible in all communications with customers. Brands that project human values and sensitivities are always more relatable to shoppers. People like buying from authentic companies because it reflects their self-perception, and small businesses are usually much more effective at conveying, and living up to, this image than large companies.

The fact that large brands are devoting significant time and money to making themselves look smaller is a testament to the power small businesses have, but it also means the competitive landscape is getting tougher. Merchants that take time to evaluate their competitors, follow a strategy and focus on adapting to the changing tastes of their customers will find that bigger competitors maybe aren't so big after all. 

  1. http://assets.wholefoodsmarket.com/www/company-info/investor-relations/financial-press-releases/2015/2Q15-WFM-financial-results.pdf
  2. https://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/openforum/articles/small-businesses-compete-big-businesses-rebranding/
  3. http://www.pammarketingnut.com/2014/06/10-ways-small-business-can-compete-in-a-big-business-world/
  4. http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303562904579228501899410702

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