by Eric Gilboord from his book 'Just Tell Me More'
1. Outmaneuver Them. A small business is like a speedboat that can manoeuvre quickly, slow down or speed up as needed, and turn around completely in a much smaller space than a battleship (a larger business) can. A new strategy may take a large business three months to develop and implement. You could execute it in three days.
2. Offer Genuine Personal Attention. Small businesses can offer real personal attention, greeting customers by name and having a brief conversation with them when they enter their establishments. Customer service is more than screaming, ‘‘Hello!’’ indiscriminately when someone walks into a store. I find this particular activity, conducted mostly by the larger U.S.- based chain stores, to be somewhat unsettling and in many cases, quite insincere.
3. Choose Between Help And Help Yourself. I prefer to buy from small businesses because they’re usually more ready, willing, and able to help me. It seems that customers must choose between getting help and helping themselves. The staffs at some larger organizations tend to be busy stocking shelves. They may point out where something is but they don’t always have the time or the expertise to help customers make a purchase.
4. Educate Yourself. Education can be an important part of the purchasing process. When many products deliver the same benefits, it is not always easy to make the right choice. In order to select the best product or service for your needs, you may require education. Small businesses tend to be better suited at offering assistance and are the best choice for one-time requests or requests for unusual or rare products and services.
5. Tailor Your Products. A small business has the ability to tailor its product or service selection to its specific customers. The most popular products your specific customer desires can be stocked in depth. This feature can be a disadvantage to large businesses as they carry a wide range of products offering little choice within a specific product group. Don’t forget to promote this advantage. Your business may represent one section of one aisle in a big box store. You don’t need to worry about the rest as you are not in those businesses.
6. Train Your Staff. Make sure you don’t make the same mistakes that some large businesses make. Don’t fall into the trap of being too busy to provide good service. Unfortunately, several large businesses seem to have staff to stock shelves but not to help customers and in some cases, not even to take your money. I can’t imagine any small business allowing a customer to stand in the middle of the floor with his or her money and no one to give it to.
This unfortunate experience happened to me in one of the well-established department stores. I couldn’t even pay for the one item that I came in to buy. But small businesses don’t always have good service. You must train your staff.
Your larger competitors probably have training programs. Your advantage is the ability to have an informal, on the spot training session for your staff. Augment any formal group training with small amounts of input when needed. If you notice something wrong or there’s a situation where you can improve your service, the changes can be made almost immediately, unlike your larger competitors, who may have to take months to develop a more formal, structured training program.
7. Don’t Compete On Price Alone. Some small businesses charge a little more than a larger competitor but that’s OK. Some segments of your target group are willing to pay a little more in order to receive better service. It’s up to you to provide it and to make sure that customers know they are receiving added value. Some customers will always look for the lowest price. They will shop around, use your time and expertise, then go to your larger competitors to make the purchase.
It’s your job to recognize these people and to educate them about the advantages of doing business with you. Customers are not mind readers. These ideas apply to many business categories such as retail, manufacturing, and industrial or professional services. No matter what business you are in, act like a speedboat and outmaneuver the battleship. Go out and run circles around big businesses.