I am a big advocate of small businesses, they are the backbone of the UK’s economy. At the start of 2015 they accounted for a massive 99.3% of all private sector businesses (source: Dept for Business Innovation & Skills).
There are so many positives to owning a small business, but it can be easy for owners to get intimidated by larger companies with their often perceived limitless resources. My advice is to focus on all the amazing things that your small business has to offer and you’ll never need to worry about those large competitors. I really love this quote by Jim Blasingame, small business expert, author and radio presenter:
“A small business is not a little big business”
There are many advantages a small business can give customers, such as:
- Personal service – you’ll often see the same staff over and over again, which helps to build rapport
- Going above and beyond – a small business will often have less rigid sales process so they may be able to help you out, for example, sourcing an item for you that they don’t usually stock or perhaps a tradesman coming to see you out of their regular opening hours
- Owners are often customer facing so you have direct access to the people who run the business, so hopefully any issues will get sorted quickly
- Small businesses have lower overhead costs than larger companies so can often be competitive on price. There is often an option to negotiate pricing and services too
- They are more likely to provide quality services or products
Look at all those benefits! Whatever you do, don’t start trying to compete with and replicate what the big companies are doing – embrace all of the advantages you have and shout about them.
Another one of my favourite quotes from Jim Blasingame is:
“In the marketplace, small businesses are the face and voice of humanity, which provides them with a great advantage in the Age of the Customer” (source: Jim Blasingame, The Age of the Customer).
In the age of social media, the small business is king. That personal voice, that ability to connect is what will attract customers and sales. It’s something bigger companies can never replicate.
One area of small business that seems to be doing this particularly well is the baby industry. After having my first child recently I have been submerged heavily into this world and it’s been a complete joy seeing so many small businesses, a large percentage run by mums, embracing their smallness and offering a personal service. This is particularly apparent on social media where the business owners are honest about who they are and really engage with their customers. I love that they’ll post things like: “I’ll put the sale items up on the website once the kids have gone to bed” or “I’ll look at your order once I’ve dropped the children off at school” – this honesty and realism that allows them to connect with their audience.
Customers want to see the people behind the business, they want to know who they are spending their hard-earned cash with rather than giving money to a faceless corporation.
There’s a quote that’s been floating round social media a lot recently and I think it perfectly sums this up: “When you buy from a small business, you are not helping a CEO buy a third vacation home; you are helping a little girl getting dance lessons, and a little boy get his team jersey, a mum put food on the table, a dad pay a mortgage or a student pay for college” (source: unknown).
So if you are a sole trader or small business then take this all into consideration on your website and when using social media.
- For sole traders, you should become the face of your social media accounts – let people know who you are and how you do business, don’t be afraid to show some of your personality as well as your expertise
- For small businesses, choose one or two people to be the voice of the business, let them show their personalities on social media and get the audience to interact with them. This will create a personal rapport that no big business can ever create
Ideas of what to post:
- If you’re a service or trade then why not post photos of your current job while your working on it, or when you’ve finished, it’ll show your audience the quality of your work and build a level of trust as they can see you are real and trusted to do work by other customers
- If you sell a product then why not ask your customers to send you photos of them using the product, for example I love that a company called Bean Bag Planet have customers send them photos of their babies snuggled into their bean bags, you can see them on its Facebook account
- Any awards, qualifications or recognitions your expecting or have recently received – it helps build trust in you and your business
- Any events you are attending, plus pictures of you at the event
- Social commentary of any relevant topics that pop up in the news, but try to stay away from anything too controversial. For example, the annual government budget is great if any of the topics affect you or your customers. Accountants can take particular advantage of this event by reporting and commenting on many of the tax changes in a blog, email newsletter or via social media – it’ll make a great talking point
- Demo or instruction videos – if you sell products then videos of how your products work or look is a great idea as it will give your stock a whole new dimension. If you’re a service or trade then maybe a video on how to do something – e.g. an electrician could create a video on how to wire a plug – something that is useful and interesting. Videos don’t have to be professionally shot, but should be clear and easy to understand.
So get out there and promote yourself, and show your pride in your wonderful small business!