When multinational retail corporations move into your town, how is your small business supposed to keep up with dwindling sales and tough competition? Read on to find out.
Travel to any city in any country and you will see almost the same brands everywhere. True that the golden arches, the green, double-tailed mermaid, or the Colonel’s face trapped in a perpetual chuckle remind you of home and make you feel less like an outsider. However, have you ever stopped yourselves to question the impact of these corporate giants on local small businesses, especially the brick-and-mortar ones?
It has become impossible for a small business owner to compete financially with multinational retail corporations that own manufacturing units and can afford to sell at discounted rates. Also, with the rise in popularity of online retailers and expedited shipping, practically everyone with a decent internet connection can shop from the luxury of their homes!
So, where does this leave our small business owners? Should they accept their plight and shut shop? Of course, not! Here is a list of things small business owners can do to keep their entrepreneurial dreams alive.
Turn your business into a brand: The image that your business portrays matters when it comes to success. Therefore, it is important to focus on a brand image. If you have already built a reputation in your locality, you don’t have to worry about building your brand from scratch—ride on the back of your existing loyalty and reputation, provided It is good. This also means ensuring that your business adheres to the standards of any professional business. Invest in designing a logo (if you don’t already have one) and choose a color scheme or packaging idea to unify all your products under one brand.
Know your competition: When you are an entrepreneur, it is part of your job to know who your competitors are, what they are up to, and what they are doing differently. Only then can you identify their weaknesses and make those your strong points.
Identify your niche: You may not have started your business to weed out your competitors but to solve a problem through your product/service. Understanding your competition will help you identify your competitive angle, and in turn, the things that your business is best at. Instead of spreading yourself too thin, make sure all your focus is on your niche product/service.
Add a personal touch: Showing up in your own store and engaging with your customers is a sure-fire way to make sure that they don’t think of your company as just another faceless entity out there. However, it is quite impossible for all entrepreneurs to be at their shops 24/7 trying to build a close relationship with every customer. The other alternative? You could ring up a couple of customers every week to ensure that they are happy with their purchase or even add a handwritten thank-you note!
Perfect your customer service: Nobody likes listening to automated phone calls. Now that breakthroughs have been made in the field of AI to make computer phone calls that sound human, automated robot-sounding voice recordings would hopefully be out soon! However, having a person at the desk to make appointments, take feedback and suggestions from clients, etc is a luxury that only small business owners can afford.
Start by training your staff to treat every customer with respect whether they make a purchase or not. Make every client feel heard and assure them that their feedback matters. You will have a competitive edge in this case because large companies have thousands and thousands of customers, a few of whom they can afford to lose every week without it being a problem. The polite and helpful demeanor of a member of the staff once moved me to make a purchase even though I was window-shopping and had no plans of buying!
Do everything to retain old customers: If your existing customers are loyal to you, then you don’t have to worry about losing them to your rivals. But how do you retain old customers? How do you keep them interested while your much bigger rival across the street is running unbelievable discounts and offers? One way is by starting a rewards program for members. Members who make frequent purchases can be offered a discount or a coupon that will be of value to them.
Create a stunning online presence: Since we currently live in the internet era, it is about time your local shop turned up in at least a few local searches online. Get your shop a website and tell your audience your story! You can even showcase your loyal customers’ testimonials for everyone to see. Or better still, take your offline business online and transform your local client base to a global one. But don’t stop with that—create business accounts on all popular social media platforms, and if you do it right, you could go from being a quaint little shop to the talk of the town, maybe even the whole word!
Take advantage of the vast technology out there: Technology is changing the way we do business in so many ways. Don’t be a luddite—embrace technology or you will fall behind. Begin by automating repetitive processes to increase efficiency and save time.
Network with other small businesses: Heard of the saying – The enemy of my enemy is my friend? If you want to keep your business afloat, you will have to live by this mantra. Connect with other small business owners who are in the same position as you and network with them. Plan exhibition-cum-sales, charity drives, pop-up stalls, and other fun ideas that would help you market your business while making sales. You will be keeping alive not just your dreams, but the dreams of other small business owners just like you!
Employ selling techniques: If your sales plummet because of competition, it is time to dabble in some selling techniques that have been practiced and proven over time. For example, the loss leader strategy is when a product is sold at a price way below its market price to stimulate the sale of other goods and services through which you could earn a substantial profit. This would make up for the loss you would have incurred by selling the first product at a low rate.
Keep adapting, keep innovating: Keep an eye out for market trends because is easier for a small business to make key strategic changes without disrupting normal sales when compared to a large company which would have to go through multiple departments even to get the go-ahead. Always stay on top of your customers’ problems and changing demands because the customer is who you are trying to help at the end of the day.
Set aside your fears of going out of business just because the big guns are in town. Your business is your dream and you should do everything to keep yours thriving.