In today’s highly competitive climate, how can smaller companies possibly compete with bigger brands? The surprising answer is that they compete very well – especially when they have the correct strategies and tools to go head-to-head with the industry giants.

No-one’s saying it’s easy for small business owners to beat the retail giants, but they will always be able to offer something different. The little extras need not cost the earth: a nice gift-wrapping service, samples, a personal message for customers and other individual touches can give them the edge over their larger competitors.

Smaller companies can compete bigger brands by building business reputation

© Vasyl / Adobe Stock


Personal relationships

Building personal relationships with customers is an ideal way to compete with the big brands. It’s a strategy that small businesses often employ. While big businesses concentrate on generating a high volume of sales, they are often not providing the best customer experience.

Using a strategy that builds up a personal relationship with customers is an effective way of giving smaller brands the upper hand. People aren’t always just looking for the lowest prices – they also want to spend their hard-earned cash with a company they like because they feel valued.

Strengthen customer relationships by going the extra mile. Help people find exactly what they want and make sure your service is impeccable. Good manners go a long way, so always say “please” and “thank you”, smile and ask how they are. When a customer gets to know you on a more personal level, they will start to trust your company, which is the key to gaining the edge over big businesses.


Finding your niche

When customers are looking for a product, there’s a good chance they’ll be able to find it online – but shopping online doesn’t provide the type of expertise you can gain from speaking to a real person in a high street shop. Although there will be plenty of options online, you won’t be able to look at them side-by-side and chat with a knowledgeable staff member about the benefits.

Instead of over-stretching resources to stock as many products as possible, small businesses can benefit from finding their niche and specialising in a particular line. They can use their size as an advantage, delivering specialist information that big brands aren’t able to do. Find a small but loyal segment of the customer pool, establish a firm foothold and build your business from there.


Finding your niche

Team up with other small businesses in your neighbourhood, so that a retail giant can’t simply sweep in and offer prices you can’t compete with. A lot of small high street traders are collaborating with each other, so that large businesses can’t win by employing a “divide and conquer” technique.

View your neighbours as people who are on your side, rather than the enemy. Most shopping areas in smaller town centres have a diversity of shops, so you’re not in competition with each other. The Save the High Street campaign was launched in the UK to this effect. Forming partnerships in terms of marketing, promotions, advertising campaigns and websites can create strength in numbers.

Partner businesses can offer special deals and promotions that work to benefit everyone as a whole. The more you’re involved with your local network, the greater the loyalty will be. Rather than being a faceless entity, a small trader can be the face of the community. Improve engagement with the local shopper and liaise with other partner organisations to think up innovative marketing campaigns and promotions.


Think big

Remember that even the smallest businesses had to start somewhere. Jeff Bezos, the founder of the world’s largest online retailer, Amazon, has an estimated net worth of $142 billion and was named the richest man in the world by the Bloomberg Billionaire Index in 2018.

He started out in July 1994 selling books from a garage, using a second-hand computer. Today, Amazon accounts for around one-third of America’s total e-commerce sales and has more than 600,000 people around the world. Bezos soon realised he needed to get on-board the e-commerce revolution that was just beginning. He drew up a new business plan for his company to reflect this and roared to success.

The mighty soft drinks giant Coca-Cola, valued at an estimated $232.32 billion today, started out as a small business launched by pharmacist John Pemberton from his shop in Columbus, Georgia, in 1886. He created a secret recipe, but the drink was originally marketed as having health benefits.

Pemberton had been wounded in the American Civil War and was trying to find something that would aid pain relief at the time. He sold the small business to entrepreneur Asa Griggs Candler for $1,750 in 1892. Candler was intrigued by Coca-Cola’s sweet taste and marketed it as a soft drink instead.

It was promoted as the “temperance drink” due to the prohibition legislation in place at the time which banned alcohol. Today, Coca-Cola has become the market leader and is known as the leading soft drinks brand in the world.

Simple changes in marketing and branding can make all the difference and can spur the growth of a small business into a large and profitable one.

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