There is a great deal of business advice in books and on the internet, but much of it is not always intended or aimed at entrepreneurs or small business owners. There is even less advice on how a small business can compete with the bigger competitors who dominate the market. The advice you may get from a fellow entrepreneur might work for them, but there is no guarantee it will work for your small business, that is nature of small business. Here is some advice that does work for small business that you really need to hear.
1. Do not try to compete with the big box stores using price, they will always win
Yes, the Walmarts, the Targets the Best Buys and even online giants like Amazon use pricing to draw consumers away from competitors, but as a small business owner, you will go out of business by trying to compete based on price. Just ask any business owner whose business is now shuttered and the owner has moved on to another business venture. Regardless of the product or service being offered, the big box stores and large corporations will always have the pricing that is prohibitive for smaller companies to compete with, this is largely due to the buying power that they have.
So if you can not compete solely on price, you need to make your offering more appealing to consumers on your uniqueness and quality of service. There are a lot of consumers who rather pay a little more and get amazing customer service from a dedicated sales and service team that truly knows their product, rather than deal with someone working at a big box store (who only makes less than $12 per hour) that does not truly know their products and only tell you what the manufacturer has listed on the data sheet. Try to stand out for something other than price, show value in your offering that the big boys can’t offer. Yes, price will often still factor in, but when you enhance the customer experience and dedicated professionalism can often make consumers overlook the pricing and become a long term customer.
2. Give the consumer a lasting impression with awesome customer service
You can have the best product, at a great price, but if you do not leave a lasting impression on customers, they wont be back. Dedication to the delivery of great customer service does not end when the sale is made, you want the customer to feel that they have made the right choice and that you stand behind your product or service.
Good customer service is not just for customers you are serving today, consider the customers that did not make a purchase today as a future customer. We all know that there are “tire kickers” that are thinking of making a purchase, but trying to get as much information and knowledge about what they are considering purchasing. Your good customer service skills of treating them the same way you would another customer will go a long way to getting them to consider coming back and doing business with you. If you have a giveaway item that your give customers who have made a purchase, offer it to your “tire kicker” prospects as a sign of good faith, they will remember that gesture when it does come time to make the purchase.
3. To encourage repeat business, you should create a loyalty program that rewards customers who frequent your business.
We have all seen those coffee cards that get stamped every time you purchase a coffee from a local coffee shop, that is the simplest form of a loyalty reward program. Admit it, you have at least one of those cards or one of the loyalty reward cards from a major retailer or even one associated with your credit card. Loyalty reward programs would not exist if they did not work, but creating one that is easy to use, is the true key. While some coffee shops still use the stamp or whole punch method, some reward programs have gone high tech. Some loyalty rewards program come in the form of a smart phone app or a scannable barcode on a keychain fob.
Regardless of which method of reward program you use, if it is not simple for the user to collect from it, they will not use it or frequent your business. Having an easy to use method of loyalty rewards program is not the only thing you need, you need to let people know that you have the program and make them want to use it. It starts at the point of sale when you or your staff interact with a customer, let them know about your rewards program and show them how easy it is to get on it. If you have a mailing list of your customers, remind them in your communications that you have a reward program and explain the benefits to them for using it.