How your Local Small Business Can Compete With The Large Corporations
When you’re a small local business, competing with big box stores can feel like an impossible task. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to succeed in business where the large retailers fail.
Get personal to build your tribe
A personal approach will inspire loyalty and build a lasting relationship with your customers. Focus on providing outstanding service and experience for your customers that they couldn’t get anywhere else. By creating a personal relationship, your customers will balk at the idea of spending any money at the big box retailers. They will support you, and likely encourage their friends to do the same.
Big box retailers generally have too many staff members and too many customers for anyone to form a meaningful relationship. Use this to your advantage and show off the human side of your company. Greet every customer like an old friend. Tell first-person stories about yourself and your business. Listen to your customers and show them that you genuinely care about them.
If you have a small team, don’t forget to highlight them too. Present staff picks on the shop floor or run a customer-voted employee of the month program. Another option is to include photos of the team on the wall, along with their names and an interesting personal fact or two. If a customer builds a relationship with your entire staff, they’ll have even more reason to come to you.
It’s important to communicate regularly with your customers, and it’s easier than you think. You can keep in touch through an email newsletter, social media, loyalty program, or even at in-person events. By sharing local news and entertainment to become a go-to local resource, and send regular discounts, offers, and rewards, you can keep your community engaged, stay top of mind and always have them coming back.
Connect with the community
Keep your brand at the front of potential customers’ minds by supporting and engaging with the local community. There are several ways you can do this:
Host events and other special in-store experiences.
These events could be related to your business, such as product demonstrations or workshops, or it could be something entirely different. Networking events, movie or game nights, or free parties all give your customers an opportunity to interact with your business and team, as well as giving them an extra incentive to visit your store.
Form partnerships with other local businesses.
You can offer referrals or discounts, or even host events together.
Sponsor local events, sports teams, or charities.
Anything that cements you as an integral part of the community will help customers recognize your brand and encourage them to support you. Take every opportunity to show your face and interact with your customers. For example, if you sponsor a local sports team, make an effort to go to every game and show your support!
Create a website and implement local SEO strategies
Local SEO can be a powerful tool. Search engines cater to local businesses in the searcher’s location, giving small businesses another advantage over big-box retailers. The tips below will help you make sure you have a solid SEO strategy in place to take advantage of this opportunity.
Use local keywords throughout your website pages and content
Think about what words or phrases your potential customers might be using in their search. Most importantly, this includes your type of business and city (for example, “pizza restaurant in New York City”). Once you have identified your target keywords, there are several places you should include them on your website:
- URL structure
- Title tag
- Meta description
- H1 tag
- Body text
- Alt text on relevant images
Embed a Google Map on your website
Embedding a map on your website is a great strategy, since not only are you giving potential customers a visual idea of the location of your business, it can also give you a significant ranking boost in organic search results.
Optimize your site for mobile
By optimizing your site for mobile, your not only creating a better user experience for your website visitors but your including one of the most important ranking factors that Google considers when ranking websites.
According to a recent Google study, 88% of people regularly perform local searches on their smartphones. You need to be where your customers are searching for you. The same study also found that 50% of smartphone users visit a store within a day of their local search and that 18% of local searches lead to sales (as opposed to only 7% of non-local searches).
Don’t leave revenue on the table by not optimizing your site for mobile. Google has a free mobile-friendly test that you can use if you are unsure. And while we’re on the topic – consider creating an AMP version of your site as your mobile option. AMP is a Google initiative and therefore is highly preferred over other mobile-friendly website structures.
Create a free Google My Business Page
Google favors their platform, and a good Google My Business listing will give you an authoritative presence across search, and Google maps. The more accurate data you fill out, the more favorably Google will rank you, so be sure to include your address, phone number, hours, category, and plenty of photos – and update this if your business changes.
Get local links to your business
Targeting locally relevant sources to link to your business has local SEO benefits, as well as the possibility of driving local traffic and building your brand’s reputation. This article from Moz has several useful tips for getting local links, including reaching out to local news sites, entering local competitions, and building relationships with local influencers.
Encourage and respond to online reviews
If you have built a relationship with your customers, they should be more than happy to leave a positive, glowing review. All you need to do is ask them! It is best for SEO purposes to encourage reviews across a wide variety of platforms, such as Google, Yelp, and Facebook. Responding to the reviews shows your customers that you care about them and value their opinions. In the case of a negative review, it gives you the opportunity to apologize to the customer and make things right. You can also include some targeted keywords in your responses.
Conclusion: It’s good to be small
Visiting big box retailers can be an impersonal, unenjoyable experience. As a small business, you have the opportunity to offer something unique. Make the most of it, and you will find it easy to compete with large corporations and thrive in your local community.