The Slow Death of Small Businesses?

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Do me a favor; go to Google and search for “store” + a location ,ie Philadelphia, and notice the map and organic listings that pop up. Notice what dominates…big brands. This is by design as these big brands have huge marketing budgets to allocate towards promoting their brands and reputation (which Google rewards them for with more and higher listings on their properties). Not to mention that these brands have scaled their operations to a point where they can afford margins that would put your local small business right out of, well, business.

It is a day and age where starting, running and growing a business is more challenging than ever. However, opportunities do exist (every cloud has a silver lining, right?) both within the competitive environment and with technology. For example, if a potential buyer of your product or service has a strong affinity for a more locally well-known brand, they will buy from that brand even if the price is reasonably higher. Combine that with technology (ie methods to promote the business locally via digital means) and a business can build a loyal, solid customer base. Why digital? Well what is the first and last thing most people do in a day? Check their phone. What do most people do 2,617 a day? Touch their phones. People on average spend 2 hours per day on social media, with teens spending 9 hours. Combine all this with 2 trillion searches done per day on Google, and you can begin to see how a small business can leverage technology (smartly) to be competitive.

So what can a small business do to combat this fierce and aggressive competition?

First, understand their target customers/audience. Why would they go with Big Brand X instead of the small local business? Most likely because they are inundated with advertisements, offers, etc from Big Brand X. On top of that, through their millions of dollars of research, Big Brand X is in a location that is more than convenient for the customer to access. There are many other reasons, but these two are the biggest that we see.

Second, evaluate the best ways to reach the target customers. One of the quick and dirty ways of doing this is looking at what Big Brand X has been focusing on. Most likely, Big Brand X has been using just about every medium in the marketing mix, but they will identify those that perform the best and focus on that. This can be difficult but with the right tools and analysis, this can be figured out. Aside from competitor analysis, a small business must understand how their customers behave. By doing this, the small business will discover the best bang for their dollar ways to reach their audience.

Third, and by no means the last thing, the small business must attract their customers. Building from the learnings of discovering the best ways to reach the target customers, the small business must give the customers a compelling reason to visit. Sometimes it is simple as just having what they want and letting them know. Other times, a little more persuading will be necessary. This could be special offers and discounts, exclusive rewards, and other means.

Putting it all together, a small business can and should be able to withstand Big Brand X’s presence. Understanding and ensuring maximum visibility wherever your customers are is key.  This includes a well thought out digital marketing strategy that builds a presence on big player sites like Google, Facebook, Yelp, and the like.

Having a great reason to choose your small business over Big Brand X is next, so have offers wherever the customers are. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to advertise offers quickly and with little in-between (think Facebook offer ads). Meaning, in the not so distant past, an advertiser had to create ads or similar, send users to their site, then present the offer. That is still an effective method and shouldn’t be ignored, but combined with the opportunity to present an offer right then and there makes for more effective “compulsive” customer conversion. At the end of the day you want customers visiting your site regularly, and an offer is a great way to introduce them to your brand.

It has always been a challenge for a small business to grow, with 80% failing within the first year. With the right strategy in place, however, this challenge can turn into opportunity. Just about every Big Brand X out there started as a small business and they applied similar strategies to not fail and eventually become what they are today. Even after becoming big, they still employ the basics, because without them, well they would fail just as quickly as if they were still a small business.

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