As a small business owner you might feel discouraged if all of your efforts don't succeed in deterring potential customers from turning to big chains. As a result, small business marketing can at times feel like treading water.
However, consistent marketing plans can lead to long-term success. Focus on the things you can give your customers that your competition can't deliver, such as expertise, a customized experience or local flavor, and you’ll find that you’re better able to distinguish your organization from large chains.
Customize your customer service
Customer service, for example, is often quite high on the list of what makes a buyer choose one place over another, perhaps second only to price. As a small business, it is much easier for you to focus on the needs of your consumers and tailor your services accordingly.
If you're the owner, consider making regular visits to the storefront and "working the trenches" with your employees. Customers will appreciate the demonstrated investment in your business' services, and they may be more likely to trust your hands-on expertise.
Creating atmosphere: Cater to your audience
Tailoring your storefront to meet customer approval can be useful as well. Atmosphere can be a powerful thing. Large chains aim to appeal to a wide range of customers and as such they tend to have watered down approaches to customer interaction and need fulfillment.
As a small business, you have the flexibility of catering specifically toward your intended (and comparatively narrower) customer base. Focus on your target audience and create an atmosphere that suits them best – whether it's casual and friendly or professional and highly efficient.
Know your niche
In a similar vein, understanding the nuances of your businesses' niche is an essential component to branding your organization. For example, if you run an action sports shop that deals with snowboarding and skateboarding, a significant portion of your customer base is likely to be the parents of active children and teenagers – therefore, it would be imperative that your transactional processes are geared toward adults while your products should be positioned to appeal to a younger demographic.
Play up your local appeal
You can use your location to your advantage as well. Small businesses are often local businesses, and that hometown feel can be a tipping point in your favor for consumers in your community. Make sure that your "impulse buys" have a local flavor – apparel that celebrates the local sports team or books written specifically about your area. Take it a step further and offer promotional mugs or promotional magnets emblazoned with your town's name or motto, and your small business will soon become synonymous with town pride for your customer base.
Additionally, while your small business might not be able to offer the rock-bottom prices of large chains, you can aim to compensate for slightly higher prices by using your knowledge of your community to create more competitive offerings. Support other local vendors by promoting any products or services that are compatible with your own to create a professional network of local supplies and support for your patrons.
By understanding your community's needs, and highlighting the high levels of customer service and community engagement that your small business is able to provide, you can set your enterprise apart from large chain stores without resorting to slashing your margins.