Updated: Jul 2, 2018
Firstly, STOP TRYING TO COMPETE WITH LARGER BRANDS. Instead, operate your business with pride and enjoy the journey! As a small business, you benefit from quite a few advantages that larger companies wish they could still enjoy. Here are some of the ways you can use these advantages to your benefit and thrive in your current market:
Own Your Shxt!
By this I mean specialize. Become a master of your field. Choose a niche product or service and focus on that. The more specific, the better! You don’t have to try to be everything for everyone...You’ll end up spreading yourself thin and you won’t be able to provide your clients with excellent products.
Wouldn’t you prefer to be an EXPERT at making delicious vegan cheesecakes-and have everyone come to you because they know your cheesecakes are the best- as opposed to investing your limited resources into a whole line of pastries that are just...okay?
The challenge is to focus on your own brand and be patient with yourself as you hone your craft. I say challenge because it’s easy to get distracted by what other businesses in the market are doing, especially when it's clear that it’s working for them. But that’s okay! It’s not your job to compete with what others are doing. Your job is to compete with your own results. There is ALWAYS room for improvement, no matter how well your business might seem to be doing. Engage your customers and employees if you have them, and do some self-analysis as well to see how your business can do better.
Going back to the vegan cheesecake example- eventually, it may benefit your brand to increase your product mix, but my point is to master one product before moving on to the next. As a small brand, you will likely have limited resources and labour, so it is necessary to ensure that you have implemented strategic systems to prevent the quality of your initial product from lowering as a result of adding another. The last thing you want to do is lose your customer's trust, so expand only when you’re ready.
Be a purposeful brand
If you’re a small business owner who hasn’t figured out all the nuts and bolts of product development, and you’re still in the process of honing your craft, then your products may not be meeting industry standards as yet and that’s okay because with practice your quality will improve. But do you know what’s even more effective than impressive product specs and finishes? Standing for something. Customers want to know that you believe in something and that you’re contributing value to their lives and the society overall. There are hundreds of businesses they could choose from to provide them with the same product you would- give them a compelling reason to choose you.
In our previous post ‘The Right Way To Turn Your Passion Into Profits’ I spoke about identifying the reason you started your business and sharing it with your audience (customers). But what’s even better than sharing your brand’s why-is living it. I mean you need to show your customers that you truly believe what you preach with supportive actions.
Every single thing your brand does needs to be consistent and align with your business’ purpose or your customers will call you out on it (and no one wants that with social media around). If you claim to be an eco-friendly company, then don’t package your products with synthetic materials! If you maintain a size-inclusive stance for your clothing brand, then actually have the widest range of clothing sizes you possibly can available to customers!
(Side Note: If you haven’t yet read the book ‘Start With Why’ by Simon Sinek...Get It Now! It’s amazinggg.)
Kill em’ with kindness
As brands get larger, business processes generally take longer and become more complex, and customers are often subjected to a poor customer service experience. As a small business, you’re in a great position to be able to engage with your customers directly and build actual relationships with them. Use the opportunity to get to know them. Learn their birthdays so you can send them a special message or offer a discount on the day. If an order will be late, give them a personal call ahead of time to notify them and apologize for the inconvenience. These small gestures will go a long way in having customers perceive your brand positively.
By offering superior customer service, your customers will be more inclined to give you their business over a larger established company, simply because you’ve made them feel valued.
Collaborate with other brands, in and outside of your market.
"Who's next to you? Who's struggling? Who's in the trenches with you? Who's just as hungry as you are? And those are the people that you need to build with."
I love this advice from Issa Rae. She was referring to how she practiced networking across to get to where she is now, instead of trying to network upwards with people who had already made it in the film industry. It’s a very powerful notion and is just as wise when applied to business relations. Creative entrepreneurs can gain a lot from working together. By collaborating with another creative whose skill set differs from, but still complements, your own, you [both] will be inspired and benefit from new opportunities and experience gained. The partnership can increase your brand’s credibility amongst consumers and also introduce your products to a whole new audience. Best of all, collaborations also increase revenue potential for both parties.
This is why networking is so important! Start attending the events for your local creative community. Reach out to brands you admire online and invite the owners to a cup of coffee/ brainstorming session. You’ll be amazed at all the doors that will open for you once you start to step outside your comfort zone.
Written by: Noelle Black