31 Jan Create competitive advantage for your small business
News that two of the world’s largest retailers have entered the promotional merchandise marketplace in America, and the activities of Vistaprint and Amazon Print On Demand in the UK, is causing a degree of concern to many distributors. We are hearing your worries about the potential impact on your business and can’t stress enough the importance of taking a step back and defining who you are, relative to your competitor set. Don’t assume the biggest and best-known brands naturally have a competitive advantage. You have many qualities, strengths and capabilities that can help you beat the competition.
Speed and Agility
The recognisable name and impressive cashflow, marketing budget, customer base and number of employees that some of the global powers of retailing boast may turn heads, but their size can be a hindrance. With fewer layers and departments and less bureaucracy you are in a better position to be nimble and responsive to both changes in the market and the needs of your customers. You can think on your feet and deliver what they want, when they want it.
The personal touch
While economies of scale mean you may not be able to compete on price, don’t underestimate the value of the personal touch. We’ve all been frustrated by telephone calls to vast organisations and experienced being put on hold or being passed from department to department. Ensure your customers have the knowledge that they can talk to a real person every time they call and will not be passed from pillar to post. As part of a smaller team your employees have more of a vested interest in your business and see more clearly the direct effect of their actions and this is reflected in high standards of customer service and care. Being closer to your customers means you can forge long lasting relationships that create genuine loyalty.
Take a good assessment of your customer base. Who are they, what does your product do or solve for them, what motivates them to buy? The greater clarity you have with regard to your ideal customer, the more focused and effective your marketing efforts will be. Don’t underestimate the value of your experience and expertise. If you are seen as an authority in your field, people will trust you and welcome the sense of security that you offer. Ensure you are listening to your customers more than you are talking at them, only then will you discover how to create the most value.
Your marketing budget may not be huge, but effective content marketing and clever use of social media can put you in front of large numbers of people at low-cost, enabling you to compete on a level playing field with your rivals. You are in a position to respond quickly to any questions or comments on social media and share your expertise in a way that attracts interest and generates business. This is something that some brands may struggle to do due red tape, sheer size and the fact that it is rarely the MD or senior staff in charge of running the social media channels.
Ultimately, remember that you are never going to be able to compete with loss leaders and price promotions, unless you’re prepared for your revenue to take a major hit. Instead, compete in the ways that you have the advantage – agility, personality and value – and your customers will reward you with their business.