There's no way around it. Starting a small business in the shadows of giant corporations is scary.
If you're a small business owner, you already know that the idea of competing against big brands can be pretty intimidating. Your staff is small. Your budget is tight. And you're fighting for consumers' limited attention with companies that are bigger, richer, and more established. When faced with these seemingly impossible circumstances, how does a small business get noticed?
First, the bad news — a lot of times, they never do. According to a study that analyzed why new businesses fail,19% were pushed out by the competition. Another 29% ran out of cash while trying to keep up.
Now for the good news. There are thousands of thriving startups that prove it really is possible to compete with (and dominate) major competitors.
That's because small businesses have a secret ingredient that keeps their competitive edge sharper than they think — they're a small business. Despite a few hurdles that come with the title, small businesses have inherent advantages that big businesses just can't achieve with sheer volume alone.
Small businesses can move fast, pivot when needed, closely control the quality of every product that leaves the shop, and connect with their consumers in a deeper, more personal way. It's no wonder that 91% of consumers prefer small businesses when convenient, while another 74% actively search for opportunities to support small businesses even when it's not.
Based on those numbers alone, a small business' competitive edge is clear. It's a matter of zeroing in on what makes small businesses unique to cut through a noisy, competitive landscape.
While small businesses might not have multimillion-dollar marketing budgets like their Fortune 500 corporate giant counterparts, there are business practices you can implement now to ensure your brand survives for the long haul. Here are three ways your small business can compete against large competitors.
Find Your Niche and Stick to It
As big brands grow, they often lose touch with their audiences as they craft their messages, strategies, and products with the goal to simply attract the largest possible market. This one-size-fits-all approach works for some, but not all.
Even when zooming in on a single demographic, individual consumers have their own challenges, needs, and desires. So while big businesses might be reaching 60% of their consumers with the right product or services, there's still a big chunk of people left wanting more.
Small businesses can thrive by giving that other 40% the specific and niche products they can't get from other brands. In fact, 84% of consumers prefer small businesses because of their deeper understanding of customer needs.
This shows a real desire for brands that just get their consumer. That's why, to compete with bigger rivals in the industry, small businesses need to identify the gaps, unmet needs, and untapped subcategories of their core market.
For example, look at Billie, a female-first company founded to combat the male-dominated shaving market. Billie's founders realized that many women were using men's razors to avoid the "pink tax." In this pricing strategy, products marketed towards women are 7% more expensive (on average) than the same products sold to men.
Billie's founders saw that women were underserved in this category. To fill this unmet need, Billie committed to building a brand that would offer women a quality shaving experience that was half the price of the competition and priced to match affordable men's razors.
Today, nearly three years after its launch, Billie has become a $25 million business. And it's because they took the time to understand the unmet needs of a consumer and found a unique opportunity to step in and solve them.
Celebrate, Listen to, and Engage With Your Audience
Think of a big chain store selling men's and women's clothing throughout the country. What's their in-store experience like? Getting help or an answer to your question usually means you have to hunt down an employee yourself, if you can actually find one.
What about their digital experience? They likely have thousands of followers on social media, all leaving comments, ideas, and questions for the brand to see. They receive thousands of emails a day, all loaded with even more questions, complaints, and ideas about their products. Even with extensive staff to monitor all of their customers' feedback, it's nearly impossible to take the time to listen and offer customized support.
Now, imagine you have a small business that sells smaller batches of locally-made men's and women's clothing. The owner of the company is always on-site and ready to answer questions or make recommendations. Online, they may have a fraction of the followers that big businesses do, but they're able to respond to each question or comment individually and personally.
When comparing the two, which option do you think the customer would choose to pledge their loyalty to? A recent study found that 64% of people place more value on a personalized customer experience than the price they pay.
With a nimble staff and targeted, niche audience, small businesses can outshine the larger competition. Use your startup size to your advantage. Give every in-store customer a personalized experience.
Online, use your platforms as a way to communicate one-on-one. Listen to their questions and concerns. Offer up advice and solutions, and, when applicable, tell them how you'll make an issue they experienced right.
This is also an opportunity to identify what your consumers need that you might not yet offer. Find out what gets them excited and what they're currently missing in their lives that other businesses aren't providing.
Recognize Your Strengths as a Small Business and Play Into Them
Being a small business is a superpower in itself. Here are just a few inherent traits of small businesses that give you a natural competitive edge when going head to head with a big brand competitor. The key is to use these strengths to your advantage.
Unlike large corporations, small businesses can often refine, tweak, and reshape their business model to respond to fast-moving markets. For example, a local restaurant can quickly revamp their menu to focus on take-out options or at-home meal kits in response to inside dining restrictions during the pandemic. Larger restaurant chains can't respond as swiftly to market changes because of bureaucracy, internal red tape, and the logistics of a nationwide rollout.
You Can Take Risks
As a small business, you can modify your products or services without significant disruptions. While consistency is important, you can make adjustments to your business (like to-go options or DIY kits of your favorite products) to meet changing demands or to simply spice things up.
Whatever route you choose, you shouldn't be afraid to take it. Because your footprint is still small, even the risks that flop won't have the same damaging and wide-spread impact that a larger company might experience. And, at the end of the day, those risks you take just might help propel your business forward.
You're the New Guy
People love discovering new things and fresh ideas. Consumers know what to expect from big brands. They know what they sell, and their name or new products no longer bring a ton of excitement. Small businesses can excite the market in ways that big brands no longer can.
You Can Offer the Level of Care Customers Deserve
You're taking the time to put hand-written thank-you notes in each shipment. You send personalized follow-up emails to your customers. Or you take the time to make recommendations based on what you know the customer is looking for.
All of these small gestures create a personal experience that consumers just can't get from major brands. This level of care goes a long way when fostering loyalty, and it shows your customers that you genuinely care.
How to Take On Large Businesses Now and in the Long-Term
Following the strategies and ideas above is just one way to keep your competitive edge sharp as a small business and compete against the big guys.
But remember, even without those strategies, you still have a significant advantage — you're a small business. You're fueled by passion, innovation, flexibility, and a genuine goal to better the lives of your customers. Small businesses are the heart and soul of every local community. By creating a unique, personalized, and authentic experience for your customers, you'll offer something your much bigger competitors never can.
As a small business owner, you're already wearing many hats — not to mention working hard to compete against the big guys in your market. The Swyft Filings experts are here to give you one less thing to worry about with their option to form an LLC in as little as 10 minutes. That gives you more time to focus on dominating your industry.