Keep Your Small Business Competitive With the 3E Strategy Invest in the right areas of your company and you'll be competing with companies that are twice your size, but only half as smart.

By Christopher Tompkins

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In a world of increasing competition, it can be difficult for a small business to make noise at a high enough volume to gain traction. Business gurus will tell you that you need to work yourself and your staff to the bone, never stop hustling and take any amount of money you can get in order to keep the lights on. They're lying.

It's not hard to make a small business stand out among larger competitors — believe it or not, small businesses have a lot going for them that large ones don't. The key is making the right moves and giving attention to all the right areas of your business that will aid in its success.

Make customers a top priority

Due to the nature of a small businesses being, well, small, they are uniquely positioned to provide a level of customer-focused communication that is highly personalized.

One of the significant advantages a small business has is that it can be closer to and more educated about its client roster. This helps connect and bond customers to your business and creates evangelists in the community that will spread the word about your business to their friends and family — and possibly even further through social media endorsements.

Here are a few of the most impactful, low maintenance ways to keep your business's communication personalized:

  1. Don't just show up when there's a problem. Be an active part of your online community. Engage in discussions that other people have started and offer the brand's unique perspective.

  2. Conversely, when there's a problem, show up. Deal with even the smallest customer complaint as though it could topple your business. Because if enough of them pile up, they could!

  3. Recognize the customers that are the most active in your community and treat them like brand evangelists. Refer to them on a first-name basis and give them exclusive offers that reward them for being a fan. These are the kinds of things that keep people sticking around in your brand's community.

Remember: There's no such thing as off-time

"No nights or weekends" is a nice idea, but when you're a small business trying to get a leg up on the big leagues, understand that it might take putting in some extra hours to remain competitive, especially in the early days of your business.

This does not mean that you need to be chained to your desk 25/8. But being at least available on weekends or after 5 pm will give you an advantage because there will be customers or clients who will want to get a hold of you outside of normal business hours. And if they can't, they may consider taking their monthly rate elsewhere.

Have your house in order

Of course, the best way to remain competitive is to ensure that your company is running like a well-oiled machine from the inside.

This isn't just advice that applies to small businesses. In my time as an agency owner, I've worked with clients whose revenue is well into seven and eight digits. You'd think that with that kind of money coming in, they would have an internal team that was put well enough together to handle a low-touchpoint campaign like what I offer, but chaos is indiscriminate. If you can't put your own house in order, the clutter will spill out eventually.

My second point of advice for remaining competitive is focusing on processes before products. How smoothly does your company run? Is production nearly effortless or does it always feel like a mad scramble to get projects done by a deadline? Do you sometimes still miss deadlines even though your team is pulling a week of all-nighters trying to get tasks finished?

Customers and competitors alike will find that out eventually because it will inevitably begin to show in the quality of your work.

Your business itself is not unique. My agency certainly isn't unique — you can find agencies who offer the same packages that I do and at a much lower price point. What sets my agency apart is not what we do, but how we do it. We have a high standard of quality as well as processes in place built to help maintain that quality and make sure that we never fall behind, get off track, communicate insufficiently, or let our standards slip.

Our campaigns are great, but our processes are our competitive edge.

The 3E solution

Once you have your processes adopted and fully standardized throughout your organization, you will find that you suddenly have more time to ideate ways of enhancing what you offer so that it is the best product or service available on the market.

"But we're a small business, we don't have any advantages!" you may say.

Wrong. You have plenty — you're just not leveraging them sufficiently. Small businesses are usually locally owned and benefit their local communities through taxes and job opportunities. You could have a niche product and thus niche expertise, making you less dispensable to your surrounding community. Your employees are likely to be more satisfied and driven because they feel like they have a stake in the company. Do I need to continue?

To find your unique value proposition, complete what I call the 3 E's:

  • Evaluate your organization's current situation and identify what area pulls the most weight when it comes to helping you succeed.

  • Enhance that area's operating power, whether that means hiring more people, allocating more budget, investing in more training or tools.

  • Empower employees from that area to think outside the box and push the department to the next level — let them know that no idea is a bad one.

Success does not come from hustling or grinding. It comes from doing the little bits of maintenance and forward-thinking that other businesses don't make time for. Foster a passionate customer base, make sure your processes are running smoothly and invest in the right areas of your company and you'll soon be to the level where you're competing with companies that are twice your size, but only half as smart.

Christopher Tompkins

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

CEO of The Go! Agency

Christopher Tompkins is the CEO and founder of The Go! Agency and an internationally renowned expert in digital marketing. With more than two decades of experience, he has turned The Go! Agency into a top-ten marketing agency in Florida and a top-25 digital marketing agency nationwide.

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