Picture this: Regardless of how you came to be in this position, YOU are one of the millions of companies across the United States that are considered small businesses. From the moment you began your business, you were faced with countless decisions: Do we try to grow quickly or slowly? Are we going to have the same product offering as our competitors or are we going to differentiate ourselves? What will our pricing strategy be?
Over time, you see success with the plan you started with, and naturally, you become comfortable with your strategy. But let’s take a look down the road. What happens when the Wal-Mart or Target, a titan of your industry, moves to your neighborhood with lower prices and a wider product offering? Although there are many occasions to doubt the strength of your small business, it is important to realize that if you start incorporating small changes over time and believing in the grandness of your small business, you can compete with large corporations.
Working in an industry serving small to mid-sized businesses, here are some common rebuttals from customers when asked about incorporating online marketing products into their business’ mix:
“We are a local business, we serve our community”
There’s nothing wrong with a business that wants to serve its community and prides itself in its small-town, around-the-corner, everyone-here-knows-your-name, homey atmosphere. While this is probably a contributing factor to how your business has come to be successful over the years, it’s also important to remember that there are communities outside of your own that could be in need of your services, and your community is changing. A healthy balance between small town charm and an expansion plan to reach customers in surrounding areas and in digital ways can help to increase revenue, bring in new customers who become long term customers, and can help to spread the word about your business.
“We work on referrals; we don’t need to market our business”
Referrals often help to build a business no matter what industry it may be in. Word of mouth can be the strongest form of advertising and the largest contributing factor to a company’s success. Although referrals still have a great influence in a company’s customer base, the forum for word of mouth is changing: consumers are looking towards technology for referrals, whether it is via a social media platform or on a search engine. All companies, whether they are large corporations or smaller businesses are able to sign up for the same social media pages and the same search and display campaigns with the same capabilities. These marketing techniques allow for an equal playing field and, whether you’re managing these sites yourself or having a company which specializes in social media helping you, you’re able to reach your target customers.
“We’ve been doing business this way for 30 years and it has worked for us”
Success doesn’t come easy, especially with a small business. It has to be worked for. Those long hours you put in to make your business just right shouldn’t be taken for granted, and although you’ve made your business successful in the past, it’s important to look to the future and adapt to the changing market. While one strategy might have worked in the past, consumers have become more reliant on technology and your marketing strategy must reflect this change. And you don’t have to do it alone. There are countless resources that can be used to better reach your consumers, whether it is in-house, small practices like creating social media sites to reach customers, or having another company use their expertise with display ads or SEM to bring your company into the 21st century.
“We don’t know enough about technology for upkeep of social sites and marketing”
For a lot of small businesses, technology can be a scary thing. There are so many options when it comes to marketing that it’s often hard to determine which are appropriate outlets to use and which will actually help you reach your target consumers. Stop. Take a deep breath. The important thing is to realize it’s not bad to ask for help and look to an outside source that specializes in marketing for small businesses. You shouldn’t have to focus on technology and how to use it, but instead should focus on the core values of your business, your mission and goals, and most importantly, the customer. Allow yourself to receive a helping hand from someone who specializes in marketing, and in the end, make sure that the message you are sending in your store is the same as the one that is being released through technology and social media. Consistency is everything when it comes to your employees’ verbal message and your company’s non-verbal technological message.
To the small business owners who have built a successful business, we commend you. It is tough to start a business and make it work over time. Now, you once again have an important decision to make. Do you keep down the path you have been taking or do you explore new paths, helping your company to stick to their core values but also gain new customers and methods of marketing your brand?
Technology is quickly changing and small businesses are adapting to this change, taking advantage of the ever-leveling playing field between them and big corporations in the world of online marketing. It’s time to work on creating consistent online and in-store messages and looking towards the technological sphere as well as other communities to reach potential customers. It’s time to stop doubting yourself and make your big business dreams a reality!
Propel Marketing is all about helping small local businesses get into online marketing. Learn how here!