While “growth” is constantly championed in the corporate world, there are reasons being small offers unique opportunities.
Here are four important advantages that small businesses have over big companies:
1. Accessible and approachable service
It can be extremely difficult for a huge corporation to replicate the personalized service that small businesses offer to their customers. Small businesses have a real advantage when it comes to customer service, and they should embrace it, says Vanessa Nornberg, CEO of body jewelry company Metal Mafia.
“If you are able to have real people answer every call, that’s not a size deficiency — it’s a selling point!” Nornberg writes. “Actively communicate about the fact that your customers will always get a live person when they call your business … At Metal Mafia, each customer gets one point of contact, and I teach my employees to talk about that aspect of the relationship as a value.”
2. Mastering a niche
Most small businesses survive by embracing a narrow market focus and developing a depth of experience that can be difficult for a big, far-flung company to compete with. Customers are willing to pay higher prices because they know the job will be done right.
“When you develop a reputation for helping people with a specific need or particular demographic makeup, people who fit that need or group prefer to do business with you and expect to pay more for the privilege,” says small business expert John Jantsch.
Large companies can grapple with bureaucracy and a silo mentality that prevent fast responses to changing market conditions and tastes. Small businesses don’t have this problem. Their flexibility and nimbleness allow them to innovate faster.
“You can also adapt your product, based on customer feedback, much more easily than your huge competition,” says Kermit Burley, a Bethlehem, Pennsylvania–based training and human resources professional. “While they are studying options and gaining approvals, you can already have your product on the shelves.”
4. The playing field is leveling
New technical and financial tools are helping small businesses better compete against the vast resources of giant corporations, small business consultant Deborah Shane writes in Small Business Trends.
On the money side, small businesses are finding bank loans easier to secure than during the Great Recession, according to a New York Times article cited by Shane. And some businesses have turned their fans into a source of capital, offering future goods and perks in return for cash donations through crowdsourcing websites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
Meanwhile, technological tools are making it easier for small businesses to compete. There’s the Internet, social media, email and specialized apps for focused marketing, cloud-based calendars and task-management tools, and improved POS systems.
“In no other time has technology made it easier for us to do business, communicate and grow on such an efficient and far reaching scale,” Shane adds.
Rather than thinking about your business’s small size as a detriment, it’s time to start thinking about it as a true competitive advantage.
About the Author
Kelly Spors is a freelance writer and editor based in Minneapolis. She previously worked as a staff reporter for The Wall Street Journal, covering small business and entrepreneurship.