5 Ways Small Business Can Compete with The Big Boys’ Marketing
As a small start-up business, Bristol Marketing needs to be able to compete with established larger marketing agencies if we’re going to stay in business and make an impact here in Bristol. Our team have plenty of experience working as part of a start-up business and in small business and we’ve honed our skills when it comes to punching above our marketing weight and succeeding in meeting marketing goals.
Here are five ways that we think small businesses can compete with larger companies, national chain stores and online retailers.
Marketing Research: Ask customers what they want
Small businesses might be at a disadvantage when it comes to buying power, but they can steal a march on national chain stores by adapting to local trends, styles and ideas. Bristol is a great city to see how small businesses can perform well on this front. Hairstyles such as the topknot and events such as the Park Street Water Slide have quickly spread out as a trend in the last year. The idea of a local currency to support the local economy and encourage Bristolians to ‘shop local’ has also achieved success and huge local loyalty.
Understanding your customers is vital for a small business to grow its customer base and maintain customer loyalty. It can become a trend influencer if it maintains this position over time and its reputation will grow quickly by word of mouth recommendation. Good use of social media can also help grow a local marketing following through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+. Whilst small businesses may not have the funds to capture customer data via the Internet, maintaining a conversation and personal relationship when face to face with customers and through social media can give more insight than any pie chart or graph.
Ask customers when they want it
Operating flexible business hours can often be the change from survival to flourishing for small businesses. Many small businesses in the UK still operate on a 9-5 opening time policy. The problem with this is that they are usually the times that customers are at work. If you’re an office based business and take your lunch between 1-2pm, you’re probably missing one of the busiest times of the working day, losing potential customers to competitors or damaging your brand reputation with people that can’t get hold of you. This is a major reason that call handling companies are so important.
Extending or changing your opening hours is also a potentially profitable option if you’re near a major travel hub, such as the central bus station, Temple Meads train station in Bristol or an Underground station in London, the busiest times of day for passing trade is probably between 7am-8.45am and 6pm-7.30pm. Changing your opening times can often be advantageous for staff too. It means that they might get a couple of hours during the day to do their own shopping and calls at a time when they can actually get to the services they need. It’s always important to ensure these changes are acceptable to your team, but being open when customers want to use your business is often completely overlooked.
Call and Deliver Vs Click and Collect
Whilst another big buzz phrase on the lips of big business marketing managers for 2015 is ‘click and collect’, small businesses can get in on the act. Of course small businesses will struggle to compete with the big boys’ all singing, all dancing websites. E-commerce is a viable option but compared to the seven figure budgets of leading supermarkets, department stores, brand leaders and Amazon, it’s increasingly difficult to build a global empire from a small business in Bristol.
Many small businesses particularly in the creative sector have found success through Google, Amazon and e-commerce. It is that creative industry that drives Bristol and makes the city the most influential Creative hub in the UK outside of London. Independent fashion labels, furniture companies and a thriving vintage clothing sector have grown national customer bases from Bristol using simple e-commerce solutions and social media to grow their passions into successful small businesses.
Yet, there is a very important difference that small business can take advantage of between online ordering, click and collect and the local business alternative: Call & Deliver. If you have a local business, take a leaf out of the best local takeaways and offer a call and deliver or even same day click and deliver service. This works particularly well for people working during the day and the elderly that prefer not to use the Internet and may not have the mobility to visit your shop. Taking payments over the phone and dropping off orders in the evening can make the difference and gives customers a reason to use you rather than Amazon or a rival larger company that need to arrange a delivery time or courier and can’t supply a same day service. Local florists are increasingly picking up on this, but if you don’t mind making a local drop-off on your way home, you could advertise the service to win you business back from the big boys.
Glamourize your online marketing process
Whilst we’ve already mentioned that small business can’t compete with national chains or international online stores like Amazon, ebay or Asos, there are ways to give your customers a great website with all the information, graphics and presentation to wow them and win you there business. Using a template system such as WordPress or Joomla or Drupal can save you thousands of pounds in development costs, and you can always find a template to match your business needs. This means that rather than spending more than your annual turnover on website development costs you can pay a website customisation specialist to create a bespoke version of a website for a fraction of the cost. You should be able to secure a great looking WordPress website for under £1000.
With a website and online branding you can be proud of, you can use social media and SEO to drive traffic to your website. Building a social media presence allows you to communicate with target customers on a personal level, whilst SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) allows you to promote your website to search engines so that you appear as high as possible on online searches such as Google.
Customer Service: Take on a customer-focussed call handling service
Call handling companies allow small businesses to take calls from customers, suppliers and new leads even when there’s no one to answer the phone. The call is diverted to a call handler and a good call management service will allocate a specific person to your company. This means they get to know your business, products, customers and suppliers. A dedicated call handler assigned to your company, they’ll be able to answer many questions on your behalf, build up a rapport with the caller and help maintain or grow that customer relationship, passing valuable customer information back to you in a way a recorded answerphone simply can’t achieve.
Call handling services and call centres are not just for large corporations, small business, sole operators and independent trader packages are available too. Often, the best companies to provide these services are local small businesses themselves and have a natural synergy to offer. This means a local UK call handler, without finding a company in the developing world.