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How Small Business Owners Can Apply Creativity to Beat the Competition

It's not about spending more money on marketing

Winning out over your competitors requires a combination of creativity, bravery, and perseverance.

Creativity means looking for innovative ways to out-smart and out-manoeuvre your competition. Bravery is required to stand up against competitor attacks on your product quality, product pricing and, sometimes, your business or personal reputation. And perseverance is that all-important “never-say-die attitude” helping you to find a way through the battlefield.

Consider these strategies to help edge out your competition.

Add crazy value

Price competition is a slippery slope for small business owners who typically don’t trade in sufficient volume to significantly reduce input costs. Profits reside in higher prices, so that’s where you want to be.

To get that higher price, you’ll need to add crazy value to your products or services — and, like apples to oranges, building in crazy value will also make it difficult for customers to compare your offering to a competing one.

Fortunately, as creative minds, adding value comes easily to entrepreneurs.

  • Offer 24/7 support. Be available to support your customers anytime — it’s easy to do with a virtual help desk service, email, 1-800 line, or chatbot app.

  • Do more. People expect so little from suppliers these days — creating an opportunity for you to “surprise and delight” customers. Offer free installation, help your customers find customers, create training videos, use a real human to answer helpline questions — it doesn’t take much to go the extra mile.

  • Remove the risk. Offer a no-strings-attached return policy, easy payment terms, and lifetime warranty. Promote confidence in your product or service by removing any hesitation to buy from your small business.

Double down on a niche market

For small business owners worried about cash flow, there’s always a temptation to be a “generalist” and try to serve a wide array of customers. That’s a mistake.

Unless you are a very large company (think Walmart) with endless marketing dollars to spend, you must allocate your scarce marketing resources and energies to serving a very specific market.

Become a specialist. By focusing on a very narrow market (I know one accounting firm serving only family-owned pet stores) your business will get very good at helping a specific type of customer and build a reputation for excellence within that market.

Let your competitors target everybody while you sell to somebody.

Communicate clearly (and often)

Everyone talks about after-sale support but very few businesses actually do it well.

By simply following-up with recent customers who have purchased something from your business, you can create a distinct competitive advantage.

  • Within 24 hours, call the customer to answer their questions about a purchased product or service. Remove that post-purchase doubt.

  • Send a thank you note (yes, by mail) to acknowledge a major purchase.

  • Offer a short survey to assess customer satisfaction and use the results of that survey to address any customer dissatisfaction.

  • Here’s the best one: fulfil any promises made to your customer. That may be as simple as showing up on time, returning a phone call, or sending requested information.

Chances are you’re the only vendor smart enough to communicate regularly with your customers.

Being creative in sales and customer service is a sure-fire strategy to beat your competition. Think about how you want to be treated as a customer and use your ideas to out-manoeuvre those obtuse and slow-moving competitors.

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