Waiting around to come up with the perfect idea or opportunity to compete with the big corporations? Turns out that the public would rather work with you than the big guys.
According to 2015 data from the Public Affairs Pulse survey, on What Americans Think About Business, 69 percent of those polled said they had a very favorable rating of big companies. That figure seems rock-solid until you read on to learn that 92 percent gave small businesses a favorable rating.
With the vast majority of the public favorable to small businesses, then, you may think there’s no real reason to take a plunge and try swimming with the sharks. But success takes more than opening your doors and welcoming clients, in order to succeed. Here are seven ways you can compete with the big corporations and win.
1. Personalize your service.
Big corporations may get a lot of things right, like building a name brand and client base, but they often fail at personalization, one of the most important factors to delighting customers. How much time can they really spend with a single client and cater to that person's needs if there are another 100 they have to serve? Focus on personalizing your clients' service by figuring out how they work best and meeting them there.
For example, if your client is a visual learner who needs some reassurance and hand-holding, set up a project-management system with plenty of status reports, graphs and visuals for help in staying up to date. The more you show your clients how much personal care and customization they’re getting, the more likely they are to ditch your corporate competition forever.
2. Differentiate your offerings.
Take a close look at what your biggest competitors are doing and think about how you can differentiate yourself. You may not be able to run a luxury retreat for teaching executives about employee retention on your own, but you can go into their offices and consult on how to create a work culture that retains employees from the ground up.
Differentiating yourself also means embracing your "small business" status. Focus on an area you do best, like digital marketing for millennials in leadership positions. Be the company that does one thing exceptionally well, instead of a corporation that may have six different arms, from branding to lead generation.
3. Start freelancing.
Not all clients want to work with a big corporation due to the price tag that goes along with it. So position yourself as a freelancer or consultant and offer clients reasonable but competitive rates. Your clients will benefit from the focus and individualized service you can offer without needing to worry about contributing to your health insurance and retirement plan.
Being a freelancer also means you work directly with big corporations looking for contract help. This can be an effective way to quickly amass a portfolio of high-profile projects. Unless you’ve signed a non-disclosure agreement promising not to name the clients you’ve worked with or to have to showcase the work you did, you'll gain a roster of impressive projects and credentials to help you land future freelance work.
4. Deliver lightning-fast.
Not every client wants to work with the biggest agency on the planet and deal with its onboarding process, busy calendars and wait for deliverables. Instead, your small boutique can deliver faster results in a fraction of the time.
There’s more you can do than just turning in your work in a timely manner. Delivering fast also means responding quickly to emails, scheduling meetings for the next day and following up immediately. Focus on your fast turnaround and response time while still delivering exceptional results, and you'll likely win big.
5. Crowdsource it.
New crowdsourcing rules and regulations have made it easier for just about anyone to seek funding and ideas from the public. But you can still leverage crowdsourcing to compete. Start by seeking validation and funding for your latest SaaS idea to get it to market while your competitors are still researching, testing and wading through their corporations' various departments for approval.
You can also create a business model that incorporates crowdsourcing at its core. For example, commercial real estate investors who are looking to scale their portfolios but don’t have the cash reserves for multi-million dollar deals can sign up with RealtyMogul. Approved investors can get started with as little as $5,000 and start growing their business.
6. Be seen everywhere.
There’s a lot to be said for making your services stand out from the competition's, but there are also plenty of ways to market yourself for dynamic exposure. For example, I offer tons of actionable advice and content on my blog, and write a wide variety of guest posts and articles.
Big corporations might be advertising on TV or on billboards, but their executives probably aren’t out in the community shaking hands or sitting down for coffee with potential clients trying to figure out how to help people. They’re also not turning up with personal insights and advice on all of the online sites their ideal customers are frequenting
7. Offer a value upsell.
Entrepreneurs tend to sell too much for too little just to get their foot in the door. While sometimes that’s a necessary and effective tactic, there are other ways to offer an upsell without adding on extra time and work.
For example, if you’re a social media consultant with a powerful content marketing strategy, you can include a foundational template or training videos in your services. You’re still getting paid to do the same work for clients, but you’re offering something they can use long-term.
That upsell won’t replace the need for your services, but it could help clients with their big-picture goals, or convince them to book you for other services, as well.