Being smarter, not just smaller

Over the last couple of decades, few things have changed the landscape for small businesses as much as the advent of huge megastores. Small businesses now need to get consumers to understand the importance and benefit of buying local; to recognise the ripple effect on the entire community that local purchases and local businesses have on the economy and what happens when those close.

Small, local businesses also need to get smarter. It is not just enough to complain about supersized stores, you have to beat them. While it’s difficult to survive in today’s retail environment, it’s not hopeless, and many small companies are managing to thrive. Here’s what the survivors are doing:

Big stores aim at big markets; they can’t afford to market to and serve niche markets. You can. Identify a segment of the market with special needs and tailor your offerings and service for them.

Compete on your terms, not theirs
You won’t be the low-price leader; they will. So don’t try. Instead, clearly differentiate yourself from them. Make the experience of doing business with you as different as possible from going to a superstore. That means you’ll have to be more convenient, more service-oriented, more responsive.

Differentiate what you sell
Offer a mix of products and services that are clearly distinct from the big competitors. Make it hard for a shopper to find the exact same thing elsewhere.

Outsmart them
Big businesses move slowly; you can adapt to new trends and market developments more quickly. Stay abreast of industry and market trends and keep informed. You can’t just take care of day-to-day business; you have to plan a strategy for even the smallest company.

Use inexpensive marketing approaches
Big businesses have to spend a fortune on marketing. Keep your marketing costs low by using approaches such as trade shows, public relations, customer retention and referral programs.

Improve employee training
Megastores often provide better training — at least in sales techniques — to their workers. Small companies often neglect to train their workers adequately. Make sure they know the products and know how to interact positively with customers.

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