Small Business Marketing Strategies for Tackling Big Competitors

One of the great challenges facing small business owners is that they must often battle for customers against larger competitors, who can afford to run more advertising, offer lower prices, and who are better established in the marketplace.

And yet some small business owners do it very successfully. How?

There are some proven marketing strategies to use when competing against larger, more established competitors. These strategies have been used successfully by companies of all sizes to drive sales and carve out a sustainable position in the market. They apply to online commerce and traditional small businesses.

Here are details on two such strategies that you can use as a small business owner to help grow your business when competing with larger competitors:

Take the “Alternative” Position

If you are up against the market leader in your business, shift your market position so you don’t compete directly with them on their turf. Become the “alternative” to the market leader – that is, promote and advertise an aspect of your product/service that the leader simply can’t offer. This is a classic marketing strategy that has been used successfully by small companies and major corporations, because it allows you to compete with the leader in a part of the market where they may not be very strong.

Pepsi couldn’t beat Coke at the cola wars, because Coke was viewed as the original cola drink that had no substitutes. That was fine with Pepsi. It let Coke have that territory, and instead marketed itself as the “Choice of a New Generation”. Its marketing appeal and target audience was young and cool – everything that Coke couldn’t be with their more traditional positioning. Pepsi successfully carved out the number 2 position in the market by becoming the primary alternative to Coke, and made billions in the process.

The rule applies to everything from .com companies to local furniture stores. Survey the competitive landscape in your market and determine how you can position your business as the best alternative to the established market leader. Second place in a given market can be a very nice place to be from a profitability standpoint.

Sell what they don’t have – You!

Many small business owners have found success by building their personal reputations as experts in their field, with significant benefits to their small business. They have become the “public face” for their company.

Some large companies have a “public face”, a person who represents the company in the minds of customers (Richard Branson for Virgin is one). But most don’t. As a small business owner, you can effectively represent yourself as an expert in your area of expertise, and drive awareness for your small business in the process.

One of the most effective ways to build your reputation is through the credibility that comes from publicity and media relations activities.

Here are some guiding principles to working with the media as a small business owner:

View it as a relationship – reporters need story ideas and expert sources – you can offer both when it comes to your area of expertise to create a win-win situation

Pitch story ideas about what’s new and what’s changing – the media likes to break news about emerging trends, either in your industry or related to your experience as a small business owner

Strive for repeat business – once a reporter has identified you as a good source of information on a topic, they will keep coming back to you – so ensure that early in your relationship you are available to them and willing to offer help in getting information for them to pull a story together

Having a single person leading the charge to build media relationships and run the company makes it easier to transfer the goodwill that you achieve in the media over to your business activities. This doesn’t work nearly as well for larger companies, so leverage this competitive advantage and take a personal approach to building your business through publicity.

You Can Compete!

Small business marketing is all about leveraging the built-in advantages of being a small enterprise in the battle against larger competition for customers and sales. Establishing your business as an alternative to the market leader in your business, and building personal credibility that can be transferred to your small business are just two strategies that you can implement to help your small business succeed against bigger competitors.

Small Business Marketing FAQs

What is a small business? The government has introduced certain criteria including the number of employees, annual receipts, affiliates and other applicable factors to identify a small business. It can be quickly determined by using SBA’s NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) Lookup. Enter the business description; NAICS will locate the business type in the resulting table.

What is marketing? Marketing refers to the commercial processes involved in promoting, selling and distributing a product or service.

What does marketing involve? Marketing is an organizing tool. The four basic aspects of marketing include the four Ps such as product, price, promote and provide. It involves market research, formulating strategy and selling based on two important principles. The first principle states that all company policies and activities should be directed toward satisfying customer needs. The second is that profitable sales volume is more important than maximum sales volume.

What is marketing strategy? Marketing strategy is the summary of the marketing goals. It is the formulation of the methods used to achieve the marketing objective.

What are the major constraints for small business marketing? The major constraints for small business marketing include budget limitations, lack of adequate resources and tough competition.

What are the important collateral marketing materials? Collateral marketing materials consist of printed marketing materials. They include brochures, business cards and news letters.

What is the importance of advertising in small business marketing? Advertising plays an important role in small business marketing. It helps to influence people with attractive marketing materials such as banners, sign boards, magazine and directory ads as well as trade booth displays.

How To Create A Small Business Marketing Strategy That Will Triple Your Profits This Year

What does a small business marketing strategy mean to you? Some people automatically think in terms of their company’s long-term goals. When they start their small business, they create a long-term business plan, including a marketing strategy, that will help them develop their company over time. Others think of a small business marketing strategy as a single campaign. They create a marketing campaign for one product or service they offer, and create a series of marketing tools that will help them sell that product or service.

While both may technically be correct, there is a distinct difference between the two. One creates a stream of income for a short period of time (typically a few weeks to a few months), while the other ensures you have a stream of income coming in on a regular basis.

In order to ensure an effective small business marketing strategy, you must have three things in place.

1. Multiple marketing tools in place. Every day a person is marketed to 60-100 times. You see banners on the sides of busses, advertisements in newspapers and magazines, and coupons in your mailbox. It’s easy to see why marketing tends to become almost non-existent in our minds.

But the thing that a good marketer realizes is that he has to use different marketing tools to reach different target audiences. Everyone has a different attention span. Everyone is searching for different products and services at different times. A good small business marketing strategy has multiple tools in place to capture a prospects attention when he or she is ready for our product or service.

The key is to knowing who your ideal clients are. The more you know about them, the more you’ll be able to reach them in a manner that’s best for them. Good marketing tools are:

* direct mail postcards

* direct mail letters

* advertisements in magazines

* advertisements in newspapers

* neighborhood postcard packs

* door hangers

* flyers

* brochures

* promotional products

* tradeshows

* billboards

* bus stops

* school buses

* regional transportation systems

* sponsorship of school athletics

* and much more

An ideal small business marketing strategy will encompass many of these types of tools, and have campaigns set up using select tools at different times throughout the year.

2. Use those marketing tools over long periods of time. Once you have your marketing tools in place, continue to use them again and again. Probably the biggest mistake a small business owner makes is to grow tired of his own marketing campaign, and abandoning it before it’s realized its full potential.

The average campaign takes a person 8 – 12 times of viewing the same material to recognize the information and take action. If you quit running a campaign before you reach the 8 – 12 times average, you won’t achieve your desired results.

An ideal small business marketing strategy will provide goals to seek out longevity in marketing campaigns. While nuances of a campaign can change (i.e. changing ad advertisement to showcase seasonal products) the structure of the campaign should always remain the same.

3. Use those marketing tools in many different places. Your prospects come from a variety of different sources, and have a variety of different interests. Mailing your brochure out to prospects is a great way of marketing; but you may also do well by placing your brochure in offices of complimentary businesses. Advertisements may work well in your local newspaper; but they may do just as well in an industry trade publication. Direct mail postcards may inspire a lot of people to pick up the phone and call you; but it may motivate more people to visit your website.

Creating a handful of tools to use in your campaigns provides you with the resources. Getting those tools into the hands of your prospects is what requires a plan.

An ideal small business marketing strategy will be a long-term plan that involves creating marketing tools, putting them into the appropriate places, and leaving them in place long enough to let them work.

Copyright 2006 Vision Business Concepts Inc

The Fundamental MUST DO’s of a Small Business Marketing Strategy

The ultimate small business marketing strategy is really no secret if you stick to the fundamentals. As a small business owner, you are constantly being barraged with what someone is telling you is the latest and greatest marketing strategy. Before you waste your time and money on something new, you really need to ask yourself if you are doing the basics well.

Take a moment and remove yourself from your business and think of your business as your athletic team. It’s the beginning of the season and you are psyched about the year ahead. What is the first thing that you are going to do to prepare for the year? Do you start by practicing trick plays? Of course not! You practice the fundamentals.

  • If you’re a baseball team, you practice hitting and fielding.
  • If you’re a football team, you practice blocking, tackling, throwing and running.
  • If you’re a soccer team, you practice kicking and passing.
  • You don’t start running plays until your team is in shape!

Okay, now that practice is over and you have showered and cleaned up, it’s time to get back to your small business marketing strateg!

7 Critical Small Business Marketing Strategy Fundamentals

Is your team (staff) in shape? Do they know the fundamentals? Do you have them practice and rehearse the right way to do serve your customers or do you let them wing it and hope they’ll such a great job that your clients will be magnetically drawn back to your business?

Guess what? If you leave it to chance and assume clients will return, you risk taking your business into the world of mediocre results where you will join the legions of small business owners who are wondering where there next customer is coming from. Don’t leave your success to chance and then grasp for the magic bullet that will save your business. A powerful small business marketing strategy begins with the fundamentals. Here are 7 critical steps to your business success:

  1. Critical Fundamental #1: You must have a Unique Selling Proposition, which answers the question “Why should I do business with you?” Your USP is much more than we give good service or do a good job. Your competitors are saying the same thing. Your USP should have the prospect saying “Oh really? Tell me more!” It helps get your prospect interested in buying from you. Give them a powerful reason to do so.
  2. Critical Fundamental #2: Your business must be living your USP. If you make the claim, play the game by making sure everyone in your company lives the USP. If you claim great customer service but you let your phone ring 10 times before anybody answers it, your are not living a USP founded on customer service. FedEx doesn’t claim packages will usually get there overnight, they get them there overnight. If you make your clients go through 5 phone prompts to place an order, you are failing on a service claim. If your delivery driver doesn’t thank your customer, your competition’s will.
  3. Critical Fundamental #3: You must know the fundamentals of selling. It usually costs a huge amount of money to get a prospect to come to or call your business. Once they are there, doesn’t it make sense that you should have the skills to sell to them and maximize the value of the transaction? You do so by cross-selling and up-selling. Don’t expect the customer to ask for more , you must help them along. Sales training is one of the best investments that you can make in your company. Everybody who comes into contact with a prospect or client should know the basics of selling.
  4. Critical Fundamental #4: This fundamental is one of the most critical and obvious but most overlooked element of a successful small business marketing strategy! You must have a system to capture client and prospect information such as name, address, phone number, email address, buying history, preferences and other information relative to your business. Today’s technology makes that very inexpensive to do. When you have this information, you can develop a close relationship with your clients based on what THEY like.
    1. Here is a real world example: My wife and I eat out at a nice restaurant at least once a week and we like to go to different places. There is only one restaurant in the Cincinnati region that has ever even asked for my name and address. They send us coupons regularly so we eat there regularly. All of the rest are wondering how to get new clients in the door and spend a lot on advertising to get them there. Now that doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it? Why don’t the others ask about me and what I like? It is real easy and inexpensive but most business owners are out of touch when it comes to knowing their clients.
  5. Critical Fundamental #5: You must have a system in place to regularly communicate with your prospects and clients. You should be frequently hitting them with unique offers, birthday cards, newsletters and special customer only specials. Your customers DO WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!!! The research proves it. If you don’t talk to them, you are communicating an attitude of indifference towards clients and opening the door for your competition to take them away from you.
  6. Critical Fundamental #6: You must leverage your marketing efforts by establishing joint ventures and alliances with other companies who have similar client profiles in a non-competing business.
    1. Look at this scenario: You own a restaurant and have 1,000 clients who know and trust you and like your food and service. The florist down the street also has a 1,000 clients who know and trust her. You approach her with an idea. You will pay for amailing to her list in which she endorses your restaurant and offer a special coupon for a free appetizer to her clients. You mail a similar endorsement for her shop to your list. You will both get a huge infusion of new business. Now doesn’t that make more sense than running an ad on the radio or in the paper?
  7. Critical Fundamental #7: First of all, notice all the above fundamentals don’t ask you to risk money on media advertising and any one of them can easily increase your sales 20% or more. However, if you choose to advertise in the media, TRACK YOUR RESULTS! Don’t fall in the trap of building a brand or getting your name out there. If you are investing in something, know your return on your investment. If you put $5,000 dollars into an investment portfolio, you expect a minimum return and you closely track your results. Do the same thing when you invest in marketing.

You Must Get the Fundamentals in Place
Or You Are Losing Business!

As we discussed earlier, a good small business marketing strategy starts like a sports team does in preseason, by getting back to fundamentals. If you are following these small business marketing strategy fundamentals, you should congratulate yourself because you are one of the few who are getting repeat business, referrals and new customers for a fraction of what the average small business spends to attract a customer.

If you are not doing so, get started. It is a lot easier and less expensive than you think and your returns will be huge and you will literally reap exponential increases in sales.