There are many advantages that small and medium sized businesses have over large businesses. I work with SMEs helping them identify opportunities for growth, and then helping them to realise that growth potential. Here are my top 5 strategies for small business success:
1. Provide Exceptional Customer Service
Make every customer feel super-special On the whole, bigger companies are not great at customer service. As a small business you are physically much closer to your customer, and therefore will be able to understand their needs and frustrations much better than big businesses. Many businesses put all their efforts into getting the physical product or service they are selling to be as good as it can be. In reality, it’s very unusual to have a unique product or service to sell. Therefore, if you commit to being the best you can possibly be at customer service, you will have carved yourself a real point of difference to your larger competitors.
2. Consider collaborating with similar businesses
Forming an alliance or partnership with other businesses, even your rivals, is one of the best ways to level the playing field and compete with major players without being at a disadvantage because of their superior size. As an alliance, you can collaborate to tender for large projects that otherwise would have been out of your reach; harness buying power through buying as a consortium; share the cost of marketing (such as getting a stand in a major industry trade show), all of which you may not be able to do or afford on your own.
3. Develop a niche and focus on it
Specialise or focus on a narrow, deep but profitable niche, and put yourself firmly in this space. Look for gaps in the market that are either neglected or poorly covered by big companies. A profitable niche is one where there is little competition but lots of demand. For example, rather than market yourself as an events organiser, you could put yourself in the category of ‘wedding planner’ and the niche of ‘budget wedding planner’. These niches may be narrow, but for those that choose wisely they are stuffed deep with money.
4. Use technology to your advantage
Technology plays the biggest role allowing small businesses to compete on an equal basis with large companies. It is the biggest improvement to level the field between small and large businesses. The internet, broadband, cloud computing etc. can increase efficiency by allowing small business owners to get more done in a timely and professional manner from anywhere at any time. Sophisticated IT systems (that only used to affordable to large organisations) allow for more efficient and professional customer invoicing, job pricing, and inventory tracking. Social media can provide you with an inexpensive way of increasing the exposure of your business; and affordable off-the-shelf e-commerce products can allow you to trade 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
5. Present a very professional image
For small businesses especially, first impressions are vital. Image is crucial to winning the trust of potential customers and retaining the ones that you have. You must be professional, even if you are working from your kitchen table. Professionalism should be seen from every aspect of your business — from the way you dress, answer the phone, the design of your website and business cards – every single touch point needs to be considered and polished. Many customers will not bat an eyelash that you are a small business, as long as your business has credibility, and an offering and proposition they are looking for.