There are three reasons why consumers like to shop at big, online businesses; selection, price and free shipping. As a small business owner it’s hard, if not impossible to compete in these areas. Your selection is always going to be limited and with your tight margins, you can’t afford to slash prices let alone offer free shipping.
So how can you compete? By focusing on these three small things that big businesses can’t do.
Sell one-of-a-kind items
In order to stay in business, big stores have to buy and sell in bulk. That cute, floppy hat with the bow might look unique but there are a 1,000 more just like it in the warehouse. If a customer wants a truly unique hat, they have to buy from a small business. By selling one-of-a-kind or limited run items, you’re offering your customers a chance to stand out in the crowd. That’s not going to be important to everyone but for those who see themselves as trendsetters it’s a huge selling point. Luckily for artisans, stocking unique items isn't a problem, it's what you do!
When a big business says they’ll personalize a gift they usually mean they can embroider or engrave a name on the item. When an artisan says they’ll personalize a gift, it’s a whole different story. Colors, materials, size, shape or theme – the more custom options you can offer, the better. And don’t stop at the product level, think about personalized packaging and handwritten gift cards. Let customers create their own gift sets from a selection of items in your store. All gifts are nice, but when a gift reflects the recipient’s personality or interests, that’s makes it even more special.
Deliver more than just things
Things are important, it’s what we all make and sell but as a small business owner, you have more to offer than products on your shelf. You have experience and wisdom and time and taste. Teach your customers how to properly care for that handmade, leather purse. Give away a romantic ebook with that candle order or a set of recipes to use with your homemade salsa. Offer online craft classes or a free 15 minute consultation.
Be helpful and go above and beyond what the customer would expect. The owners of a small sewing machine shop in the UK lent an expensive machine to a customer when her's broke down. Target isn't going to do that.
When you help your customers do something better, faster or smarter, they’ll not only come back for more, they’ll send their friends and that's all going to turn into revenue at the end of the day.
The best way you can compete with big business is to stop trying. Stand tall on being small – that’s one thing those big players will never be.