Most people understand that a growing small business sector is essential to a prosperous community.
Even as huge retailers continue to dominate the national landscape, small businesses consistently show positive support from their communities.
Consumers also trust small businesses. A Gallup poll shows that 68% of Americans trust small businesses versus just 23% who trust big businesses.
Despite this support, many small businesses still struggle to keep their doors open. The SBA’s Office of Advocacy found that just half of all small businesses last five years or more, while only a third last 10 years or more.
With large retailers making shopping online easier than ever, competition has never been so fierce. But that doesn’t mean small businesses can’t compete in the era of free shipping and instant gratification. Here are a few strategies to prove that sometimes smaller is better.
Understand Your values
Consumers increasingly care about who they shop with and want to give their money to those aligned with their own values. Accenture found that consumers
are more likely to spend at a retailer who can communicate their ethics clearly.
Start by answering this question: What does your business believe in? The answer doesn’t need to be political or controversial, but it should be about something beyond profit.
As social creatures, all humans want to belong to something. Social media and email allow you to keep a running conversation with your customers
that transcends in-store experiences. Whether it’s conducting a survey, offering special deals, or just telling your customers that you appreciate them, establishing a relationship with your customers creates a more authentic experience by involving them in the process.
A SCORE survey found that customers crave interaction. According to the survey, 63% say they want “invitations to events” and 80% say they want “advice” and “helpful tips” from local businesses. Stay in touch with your customers to remind them that you’re still here and you still appreciate them.
The one big downside for a large business is that it can be tough to make changes. Decisions need to be sent through layers of bureaucracy, only to be debated for months before seeing any results. On the other hand, small businesses have the advantage of being nimble and adjusting quickly to market changes.
Running a business involves many false assumptions, because no business owner can ever know everything a customer wants. Because of this, you should never be afraid to abandon an idea if it’s not working, and try something different. Observe customer behavior to study what works and what doesn’t. Approach your business like a scientist to test out various approaches like events, sales, or social media messaging, then gauge the response. Trust that your customers will deliver the answers.
The support for small business is consistently positive in most communities. They want you to succeed. But, big businesses have done a better job of capturing the public’s attention by articulating their brand advantages, values, and voice.
It’s time to show customers that small, local businesses can deliver quality service and products while serving as an important part of their community’s health. This starts with sharing your story effectively.
Mike Trueba, CCIM is Vice President, Business Banking for Vantage West Credit Union, a $1.9 billion financial institution, which serves a growing Membership of nearly 160,000 via branches across Arizona and online channels. Vantage West offers consumer and business banking services, and is federally insured by NCUA. VantageWest.org.