Despite outnumbering national brands and despite relying entirely on local customers for their business, SMBs spend much less on local advertising than national brands.
In fact, the spending gap is even growing. Currently, SMBs spend $54 billion for local-market visibility, whereas national brands spend $61 billion. The SMBs to increase their spending to $63 in 2020, but by this time national brands will be spending $73 billion.
Yes, these are huge numbers — a difference of $12 billion. There’s no way SMBs can come close to matching this spending. However, as an SMB, there are still many ways you can maintain an advantage over even the biggest national brands.
Select Your Niche
The smaller your business, the more important it is to focus on a specific area of the market. When you’re just starting out, it’s fine to just have a single product or service. In fact, you’re more likely to find success if you pour all your effort and resources into making one idea as good as possible.
Mastering a niche will give your customers a reason to choose you over big businesses with a wide range of offerings. When your product or service enters the unchartered territory of a sub-subcategory, it can be perfected and tailored to the needs of your consumers.
Only once you’ve built up your customer base and developed credibility should you consider expanding. At the beginning, make it clear through your marketing that your limited offerings are due to your expertise in a very particular area and that this leads to high quality.
Target the Right Market
Market to Current Customers
The chance to interact with customers as individuals also puts you in a better position to encourage repeat sales. Not only is retaining customers cheaper than acquiring new ones, it is important for a niche market, as your total audience may be quite limited to begin with.
There’s no need to guess what customers want or to run costly research — you have the opportunity to ask them yourself. Find out what problems they want solved, what are their pain points and expectations, and what they want from you. Use your marketing to make sure customers know you are listening and to advertise the changes you make.
Choose the Right Channels
SMBs have a greater advantage than ever before in marketing. A number of channels only came into existence recently and are accessible to businesses of all types and sizes. Whereas before it was impossible to compete with big businesses for the best advertising spots — like on TV — you can now compete for organic search results, social media, and even PPC ads — even when you have a smaller budget.
Remember, big brands are looking to develop a presence across a number of locations. Each individual city or region plays only a minor role in their overall market. In contrast, for an SMB, a single city could contain the entire market. This means that with the right strategy, you can gain top rankings in SERPs and Google ads, create highly-visible social media ads, and develop a strong following on social platforms.
To achieve this, you need to make sure that your target audience sees your marketing message. Much of this is down to choosing the right channels. For instance, you need to find out which social media sites your audience uses and at what time. You also need to research long-tail keywords with your location and use them appropriately throughout marketing materials like content.
The basics of marketing are the same for every business: you need to optimize your website and content, utilize social media, run ads, and so on. If this sounds like everyone is doing the same thing, think again. If you want to stand out, you always need to find creative ways to make your marketing strategy completely different. Come up with innovative ideas for campaigns. Always try to do something no one has ever done before.
Utilize Your Knowledge of the Local Community
Big companies may be able to gain presence in local marketing, but it is still difficult for them to understand the local area. Build campaigns around local events, trends, and occurrences to show your business is a part of the community.
For instance, you could run a promotion that makes a joke about a local scandal. You could create an offer that takes advantage of an unexpected weather condition — like a discount on ice cream in a heat wave. Or you could simply share tips and secrets about the area that only a local could know.
Big businesses are rarely in the position to do any of this. They tend to become aware of local news after the fact and often require approval from higher-ups before they can take any marketing action.
Tell Your Story
Many consumers are more attracted to SMBs than massive corporations due to a personal connection with the smaller business. Other customers may simply prefer to support local people than rich CEOs. You can take full advantage of this when you use the right marketing techniques.
First, talk about your origin. Describe the hard work you put in to establish the business and how you remain passionate about what you do. Include such stories not only on your “About Us” page but also in your marketing campaigns. All will contribute to your brand image.
Furthermore, describe how you developed each of your products or services. Show how each is unique or has additional value — maybe a product is handmade, uses a family recipe, is environmentally friendly, or features more attractive packaging than you would find from a commercial brand.
Finally, introduce the people behind the scenes. Run a feature about different members of staff and talk about what they do in the company or why they are important team members. You could also provide interesting personal details about your employees, such as any strange hobbies or collections, interesting skills, or ways they contribute to the community. If your business has ever served a local or national celebrity, be sure to mention this, too.
All of these give an SMB a personal touch that a corporate brand can never achieve.
Exploit a Weakness of Your Biggest Competitor
A large budget by no means creates a bulletproof business strategy. If you look hard enough, you’ll find a flaw in your competitors’ tactics. Dedicate time to examining the strategy of your strongest competitor with a fine-tooth comb to discover its greatest weakness. Then, use this information to plan your own tactics.
Bear in mind, there are some things you can never compete with when your competitor is a big brand. For instance, you will probably be unable to compete with pricing or speed — don’t even try. A better option is to use your marketing to draw customers’ attention to the quality and personalization of your offerings.
Create an Alliance
Not everyone is your competitor. In fact, there may be other SMBs in your area that offer complementary services to your own. By creating an alliance with these business, you all become stronger. For instance, if you run the local gym, you could team up with a sporting goods store in your area.
Alliances allow you to spend less while increasing your impact. Think of ways to collaborate both in the physical world (such as by hosting an event together) and the digital sphere (you could run a joint marketing campaign or share each other’s content on your website or social media accounts for link building).
Offer a Better Service
Large corporations are renowned for having some of the worst customer service around. In an attempt to cut costs, they often skimp of staff training, causing interactions with the company to be unpleasant (to say the least). Customers often feel treated as if they were an annoyance.
As an SMB, you have the chance to offer stellar customer service. You will build your brand image through how you interact with clients. Aim to develop a reputation of going the extra mile to ensure everyone feels appreciated and valued. If your business is small enough, you can even provide personalized responses to feedback, criticism, and problems.
As well as offering a great service during purchases, extend your customer service to cover timely responses to queries and problems. Make sure prospects know about your commitment to customer service.
Never try to act like you are a big company in the hope that this will magically transform your business. It won’t. Instead, embrace your small size, and show customers how this is beneficial to them rather than limiting. Emphasize your personalized service and your willingness to listen and act on feedback. Most of all, don’t worry about how you can’t compete; instead, keep in mind the advantages your small size brings you.
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