Here’s How Small Businesses Can Stand Out From Their Competition

Did you know 86 percent of people in the U.S. trust small businesses, but only 55 percent have the same level of trust in big business? A Pew Foundation survey shed a favorable light on the earnings potential of today’s small businesses.

However, competition for consumer dollars is higher than ever, so what can you do to stand out and earn your share of the pie? One thing’s for certain—you can’t use the same small business marketing strategies as everyone else. Transform your approach, and you’ll transform your brand into one that is labeled as a best-in-class small business within your industry.

Here are 20 ways to stand out, gain a following, and succeed in today’s competitive small business environment.

1. Offer Great Products and Services

If you want to beat your competition, one of the best small business strategies you can employ is simply providing outstanding products or services, with 74% of consumers identifying word-of-mouth as a key influencer in their purchasing decisions. [Ogilvy/Google/TNS], WOM is typically an important lead generator for small businesses.

Sure, a great logo and effective branding will also play a key role in your success. However, if your product or service doesn’t leave a positive, lasting impression, you’re not going to succeed in gaining loyalty, repeat customers, and new customers from referrals and word of mouth. Keep refining your product and prioritize it over the sales and money it generates.

2. Define Your Brand

With an outstanding product or service, it’s time to work on branding your business. Small business branding is much more than eye-catching logos and smart merchandising. It’s a melting pot of every customer’s experiences with a company.

The best way to stay memorable is to go against the crowd. Your small business is probably not the first business offering what you’re trying to present to your market.

There are thousands, if not millions, who want to share the overall market share in your niche. What will differentiate you from others is branding yourself differently.

Branding takes time to build into a potential customer’s mind. So, there is a need to go the extra mile. Do stuff your competitors don’t want to do.

From your social media and general marketing message to the visual elements of your company and your interactions with customers, all of these elements help shape your business, the message you want to share, the people you want to attract, and the credibility you hope to obtain.

3. Target Your Market with Laser Precision

Many small business owners make the mistake of trying to appeal to a broad audience. However, one of the best small business strategies is to precisely target specific groups of people looking to solve a very specific problem.

When you’ve defined your target market and understand who benefits the most from your products or services, you’ll attract more customers, position yourself as an expert, and be able to charge more for your specialization and perceived quality. Think boutique, not big box.

4. Become an Expert

To truly beat your competition and separate yourself from the pack, you need to position your business as an expert in its field. How do you do this, you ask? The answer is simple: demonstrate your uniqueness and expertise by creating great content, giving your target audience a reason to reach out to you and purchase your product or services.

A few ideas for positioning yourself as an expert include:

  • Create an irresistible free offer demonstrating your understanding of and ability to solve their problems.
  • Publish thought leadership content on your website.
  • Get data that other companies down have by talking to your clients.
  • Guest blog on highly authoritative websites where your potential customers are hanging out.

5. Utilize Competitive Differentiators

If you want to stand out from your competition, you have to be different from them. If you want to build a strong brand, you must pinpoint exactly what makes you unique and utilize competitive differentiators.

As the name suggests, competitive differentiators are specific things that make your company different from your competitors.

After brainstorming and listing your business’s competitive differentiators, weave them into your company message, company culture, and small business marketing strategies.

6. Put a Face with the Product

Many small businesses fail because the owners are off being “owners” rather than the face of their business. Watch “The Profit” or “Bar Rescue,” and you’ll find plenty of examples of what can go wrong when owners go AWOL and leave their businesses to run themselves.

Although your business needs to function well without your continual presence, you must discover a balance and find a way to be the face of the business and connect with customers. Thriving businesses all have one thing in common: owners who are active and engaged both inside the company and out in the community.

A successful business starts with a strong foundation, and part of a strong foundation is having a great name and an eye-catching logo. Since changing your business name or logo can be costly and a huge headache later, getting it right from the start is important. Your company name and logo should be easily recognizable and appeal to your target audience. They should also reflect your brand’s personality, the products it offers, and the company’s overall tone.

Do everything differently, from your logo and website font to the alignment of your company. Going against the crowd is always harder, but that is basically how success happens.

8. Build an Experience, Not Just a Website

We have all searched for a local business on Google and clicked on a link, only to find the website was unusable on our smartphones, poorly designed, or we couldn’t find basic contact information. How did this make you feel? Suppose you’re anything like us and the majority of other people. In that case, you immediately lose trust in the business and go back to Google to find another company to solve your problem.

Small businesses must change their mindsets about websites. They should no longer think of them as just brochures for their company or that their design and user experience do not matter. Instead, they should start thinking about building a website experience that builds trust and helps users find the information they are searching for.

9. Have a Clear Voice in the Marketplace

An excellent small business branding strategy is consistently delivering your unique brand message and focusing on customer communication via social media, in person, and on the phone.

Lacking creative ideas and not sure about your brand’s “voice”? Have a look at what other brands are doing. What positive attributes of their branding, marketing, and relationship-building would you like to emulate? Sure, you want to be different from your competitors, but you can look to businesses in other markets or industries for examples of what to do to dominate your own niche or locale.

9. Build Strong Relationships

Once your prospects or customers are off the phone or have left your store or site, chances are they’ll forget all about you. How can you avoid this? Build relationships with them, of course! Everyone knows customer relationships affect the success of your business, but few understand how impactful loyalty is. One study reported that 89 percent of consumers have stopped doing business with a company after experiencing poor service.

Stay in contact with prospects and customers at least once a week. Give them insightful tips, poignant knowledge, discounts, and so on to get to know your business, follow it on social media, and look forward to the emails you send.

10. Build a Community

In today’s world, a business must build a passionate online and offline community to gain the trust and respect of its current and future customers. Although this takes some time and dedication, it doesn’t take much money, which may be a breath of fresh air if you’ve been spending on traditional advertising and seeing less-than-stellar results.

Social media platforms are great for are great for community building, while local events, fundraisers, and workshops are terrific ways of building an offline community. This grassroots business and brand-building style can be highly effective when executed correctly.

11. Become a Brand Advocate

The best salesmen aren’t necessarily the best businessmen. There are many forms of selling and advocating for your brand, and they combine many into one cohesive message.

If you’re passionate about your business, share it with others and excite them about your business, too. Ensure others understand the story behind the products, the people they have helped, your company mission, etc. Doing so will make you an authority in your niche and stand out from the pack.

12. Have a Unique Selling Proposition

What’s unique about your products or services? What makes your business different from the others in your niche? The answers to these two questions will determine your unique selling proposition and customer value.

13. Offer a Free Trial or Money-Back Guarantee

A free trial or money-back guarantee will help assure customers they receive a product or service worthy of parting with their hard-earned money. Unfortunately, many businesses fail to recognize the power of this marketing tactic. If you’re the only one in your niche offering these incentives, you will stand out and acquire more sales.

14. Communicate with Your Customers

According to Entrepreneur Magazine, getting customer feedback regarding the product, future products, the sales process, and so on is important. This customer data can prove invaluable in several ways, including the development of strong customer relationships.

How do you get feedback from your customers? Here are the best ways to get consistent feedback:

  1. Client Surveys
  2. Feedback boxes on your website and in-store
  3. Reach out directly to customers
  4. Website and In-store Usability Tests

15. Have a Superb Customer Service

Your customer care is the engine of your small business, so aim to create superb service for each client. Bain & Co. reports that a customer is four times more likely to buy from a competitor if the problem is service-related rather than price- or product-related.

Please find out how your top competitors treat customers and how well they invest in making their care work effortlessly. Ask your team what they are doing that you aren’t doing and how your services can be made friendlier and more balanced for prospective clients.

Competition is fierce, and your customers may not remain customers long if you don’t take active steps to build their loyalty.

16. Solve Problems Don’t Just Offer Services

Businesses exist to solve the problems of potential clients.

Market research should enable you to develop a strategy for solving the problems your competitors aren’t solving. The research you’ll do in your niche will enable you to see gaps in the market and where your competitors are missing opportunities.

Fill those gaps by producing a better product or a product that specifically answers the questions no competitors were answering. The more you present a product as a solution, the more revenue and market share you lose.

17. Reduce / Focus Your Target Market

It’s naturally not a good thing for a small business to start in a crowded market. In some markets, they’re top dogs who have taken over the market.

However, taking on the whole market may not be the best strategy. Instead of focusing on the market as a whole, find a subset of your market to focus your energies on and let your brand be the top dog there.

You may end up eating a smaller pie, but it’s better to than fighting the big competitors for a share of the big round pie. Locate that big market, and don’t just stop there; go further and try to take over other little sub-niches around it.

18. Focus More on Innovation

Brands die when they stop innovating. Some create epic products that go viral and then rest on the success of just that product. Business has no resting place. Innovating in business is simply striving to outwork and outperform your previous products.

Check your services and compare them with those of your competitors. If they’re literally on the same page, you need to heighten your services and surpass them at something.

Don’t stop there. Compare your products to those of your competitors and check if you’re on the same page as them. Your goal is to increase and be above them in something.

19. Create a best-in-class in-store Experience

We have driven past many small businesses in Wake Forest that we would probably not go into. They may have great products and services, but at first glance, their brick-and-mortar experience does not build trust with us.

Much like your website is one of the first impressions your potential customers will have of your businesses online, your storefront and experience are what potential customers will see when they are driving or walking past. A few tips for creating a great in-store experience and storefront that will get people to want to come in and browse include:

  • Begin with Your Target Customer In Mind
  • Find Inspiration By Visiting Other Stores
  • Get a Designer To Help You
  • Remember that People Have 5 Senses, Not 1
  • Show, Don’t Tell
  • Remember The Rule of Three When Creating Displays
  • Let Light Dictate Mood and Attention
  • Don’t Forget to Change It Up and Keep it Fresh and Inviting

In Conclusion

If your business has been around for any time, chances are you’ve heard many of these small business marketing strategies, but are you using them? For many business owners, these strategies are nothing new, but many fail to implement them and see results.

Don’t be another failed small business statistic. Use these simple, time-tested tips to stand out and dominate your niche today!