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When It Pays to be Small

When It Pays to be Small

Small business owners often lament that they can’t compete with the big dogs in their industries. This may be true on some levels. But there are several distinct advantages to being small that can bring success to even the most outsized small businesses.

The most obvious way it pays to be small is when it comes to customer service. Small businesses tend to naturally shine in this area because they know intimately the value of each and every customer. When customers feel valued, they are more likely to be loyal to your business and refer you to others. So, whenever possible, offer personalized attention, get to know your customers by name, and tell them that you value their business.

In marketing, large companies seem to have the advantage. With larger budgets, and sometimes entire departments or firms dedicated solely to marketing, big companies can dominate traditional advertising. Television and radio spots and full-page ads in national magazines are advertising methods that small business owners generally can’t afford, but there is a way to use your smallness to your advantage in marketing.

There is something in people that wants to support small local businesses—appeal to that desire and your can earn a loyal following.

One way to do this is to brand your business as your city or area’s local service provider or retail store. In general, there is something in people that wants to support small local businesses—appeal to that desire and your can earn a loyal following.

In my town there is an exterminator that built his business around this idea. He literally named his business “The Local Bug Guy” and will only do business within a small geographic area. By doing this, he is able to respond to service calls quickly, save on fuel costs, and maintain happy employees by keeping them close to home. But he also knows that he is appealing to people who want to support small businesses within their community. His business is thriving in an area with multiple large competitors.

Small businesses can also use their “smallness” to their advantage when it comes to internet marketing. Any Search Engine Optimization (SEO) expert worth his salt will tell you that people often search online using a city or location in addition to the product or service for which they are looking. For example, someone looking for a plumber doesn’t just do a Google search for “plumber,” but will search for “Albuquerque plumber.” If the owner of a small plumbing business in Albuquerque has optimized his website with the terms “Albuquerque” and “plumber,” that business can show up in the search results ahead of their big name competitors who may not have optimized their website with specific city names.

Flexibility is another advantage small business owners have over their larger competitors. A mom and pop restaurant can offer a surprising new dish on their menu on whim. A local retailer can offer a discount for whatever reason, without hassle. A small company can change its business hours when it makes sense to do so. When you don’t have to deal with the bureaucracy of a large corporation, decisions that will benefit your business can be made and implemented quickly and effectively, giving you a leg up on the competition.

By embracing your smallness, and using it to your advantage, your small business can be successful even in a market that’s dominated by larger competitors. Stop trying to directly compete with large companies. Instead, focus on offering customers an alternative to them, and you’ll stand out among the giants.


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by Emily Lund // Co-founder and Managing Editor of Businessing Magazine. Content Strategist and multi-function copywriter at Modmacro℠, specializing in marketing communications for small businesses and non-profits.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.