Small scale and startup companies may seem to face an uphill battle in marketing against larger, established brands that have comparatively unlimited budgets. However, research shows that these smaller, nimble businesses have distinct advantages over larger competitors – if they know where to find and engage them.
Let’s look at some of the challenges and strategies to succeed against competitors with sizeable staffs and bigger budgets.
A Look Inside Business Mentalities
Whether they will admit it or not, larger companies generally possess a culture that fears failure. This fear slows down their processes and stymies creative thought and action.
Knowing this, smaller competition can thrive using their swift ability to act and react, recognizing and rewarding speed and innovative thought. Yes, mistakes may happen; but the smarter companies will quickly address problems and resolve them, often partnering with customers for improved rapport and satisfaction. As we’ll see later, customers care more about how you handle mistakes than whether you make them.
The smaller company, by training its innovative focus on the right challenges, gains an unmistakable advantage over a larger, cumbersome office that cannot react as quickly to challenges, customer feedback, or business opportunities.
Level the Playing Field
Thanks to social media and strategic search, small businesses hold significant equalizers in reach and marketing ability. With the increasing population of millennials, there exists a growing distrust of traditional advertising. More important today are personal reviews and testimonies that share authentic experiences. Fortunately for the small business, obtaining these credible opinions and reviews are significantly less expensive than historic ad campaigns.
The same millennials who distrust high dollar advertising are quick to engage and share their impressions on social media and review sites at a minimal cost to your business. With this group, one well-placed review can potentially reach more people with more credibility than an in-house ad campaign.
Strategize Your Efforts
Recognizing that we are in a different marketing age is a great first step. Throw out the “that’s the way it’s always been done” mantra. Of course, if a classic strategy fits your needs, by all means use it. However, we should always be in a continual state of reviewing and reforming our strategy.
As we’ve mentioned, larger organizations are often weighed down by bureaucracy. Smaller companies can more easily start fresh and/or pivot their online strategies. Here are some great initial steps to creating your blueprint to compete with larger competitors:
- Start with a Laser Focus – Think big as a long-term goal, but start small and drill down on a narrow and focused audience. Key in on this segment with targeted ads, promotions, and social media campaigns. Use your size to adapt and relate with these customers. As you capture market share in this area, expand into a related market and grow.
- Understand Search Algorithms – Google continually modifies its search algorithms, and it can be difficult to keep up with their changes. Be sure you understand – or have a partner who understands – the latest trends in their methods. Currently, we are seeing Google lean more toward quality and number of online reviews, along with complete and accurate information about your business. Also, be certain to incorporate a mobile-first website strategy when designing your pages and outreach.
- Provide Outstanding Service – Make customer service a priority, and build relationships with your targeted audience. Be the leader in their minds, and win their favor and trust. Take advantage of your small size – after all, it’s easier to get to know a small company than a larger one. Create a family atmosphere or a “tribe” of allies to breed loyalty and a dedicated following. A large fan base in your targeted market can push you forward with credibility into a new one.
- Prioritize Keeping Customers – If your company relies on repeat business, remember that the cost of maintaining a customer is much lower than the cost of acquiring a new one. Accordingly, be sure you give your customers every opportunity to feel special and valued. Engage them as “partners” so they feel invested in your success to keep them coming back. Include efforts in your digital strategy to reward them and keep their interest strong as you plow new ground. In this way, you’ll build a strong foundation of loyal patrons who will support you as you grow by adding new customers.
- Solicit More Reviews – As indicated above, the quantity and quality of reviews is growing more important for search results. Accordingly, you should employ an active strategy to request reviews from your customers. It is possible to automate this step to ensure reviews increase as well as keep current. Reviews older than six or eight months are readily discarded as extraneous.
- Follow and Respond – As you bring in more reviews, be sure to pay attention to what is being said. Not only will you learn what is going well, but you will also find an occasional opportunity for improvement. When a poor review pops up – valid or not – it is imperative that you respond in a positive way. This action shows you pay attention to customer feedback and are willing to work with customers toward a healthy resolution. Through your correct handling of feedback, you will build trust online and find opportunities to influence more potential customers.
- Plan for the Long Term – You may be small now, but your goal is no doubt to grow. As you grow, be sure your strategic plans allow for a larger footprint. In other words, don’t go cheap now with your supporting infrastructure, only to find you have a much larger expense down the road because you had little forethought.
For an assessment of where you are and how to get started, contact one of our marketing specialists today. We enjoy teaming with capable businesses to bring out their best and move forward together.
About the Author:
Deedra is a graduate of Ohio University with a Communications Marketing degree, is certified in both Google Adwords and Google Analytics, and has been trained in EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System) for small to mid-size businesses. She is a member of Vistage, SEMPO, and the Atlanta Interactive Marketing Association. She is also the President of the Board of Directors for Cumberland Academy of Georgia. She has been featured as a key speaker on SEO and social media, as well as other various digital marketing topics...