As I arrive into a new town and seek a place to dine I immediately hit Yelp to search for highly rated restaurants or diners. I enjoy good food and never like to go to a chain restaurant. I want my food made by a local and if locally sourced that is even better. They tend to be a much better dining experience. This also goes for my shopping experience as well. The independent outdoor gear shop, fly shop, or running store tend to be a wealth of resource on where to hike, climb, run, fish, what’s biting or anything I may have forgotten on my trip. I enjoy the local support and education. These are attributes that contribute to small business success in today’s economy.
As an entrepreneur I have an affinity to support small business. It is small business that drives our country and our economy. Without small business then we would have little differentiation and innovation. If big business were never challenged then we would be stuck in a black and white world. It is the power of the small business and entrepreneur mindset that puts larger businesses on their heels and causes great things to come about. Elon Musk is challenging the mindset of car manufacturers. Richard Branson brought disruption to the music, airline and mobile industries. Jeff Bezos changed the mindset of shopping for all consumers. Steve Jobs did it with the up and coming computer industry. Yes, each of these are now large businesses, but at one time they were small businesses with a vision and a dream to change the landscape of their respective market. We at Altra feel that we have done a very similar thing in the running shoe industry and continue to push those limits.
I want to share some tips that I feel can help make your small business a success.
All of these companies that I listed above changed the way their competitors work because they had some type of disruptive strategy or technology. Most often the best small business doesn’t spring up because of some new invention, but just a new way of doing things. Whether it is a different method to market, or a revised customer service strategy or a unique brand, it is up to you to take your passion and bring it in a unique way. Study who you want your competitors to be and who your target customer is and then cater your business towards your customer and uniquely from your competition.
Shoot Beyond The Ceiling
You may never want to be as big as your competitor, just better in your area. A running store may never want to be the next Sports Authority or Dick’s. They just want to own the running market within their general zip code. Small business success isn’t always measured in number of locations and overall revenue. Be cautious not to limit your growth too much though. Too often we set our sights too low. We may look at the other specialty shop down the street and want to go to battle with them to take their market share where we may have much better luck taking market share from those going to the big boys. We can’t market like they do, but that is our advantage! Find your ceiling then go just beyond it!
Grassroots Marketing Tactics
The greatest advantage that a small business has is the element of surprise. Just as a lion will prowl in the deep grass to get its kill a small business ought to be doing the same. Use some, if not all, of the following methods to take down your prey and find your business grow and be profitable. I’ve written more on each of the topics below here.
- Email Marketing
- Social Media
- Local Events
- Strategic Partnerships
I can’t say enough about email marketing. Take every opportunity that you can to build your email database. Use in store sales, local events, drawings, social contests and more. Having a pool of email contacts is something that you can control. Consistently send out content to keep your fans interested and engaged. Yes, social media is great for the daily updates, but email is still seen in higher percentages than any social traffic.
Keep your brand looking the same and feeling the same. Don’t confuse the consumer by having one vibe in store, another on your website and then another through your social voice. Small business success has a lot to do with keeping consistency. Make sure that your staff understand your brand culture and live it. If you lose identity and culture then you may lose a lot of your following as well as the ability to attract more followers.
Be determined to make your business a success. We need more small businesses; whether they are the next great local eatery, specialty gear shop, car manufacturer or resource supplier in power, water or fuel. It is small business that drives the American Dream and the success that we have had as a nation.
Keep innovating and building!