Being in charge of a small business means constantly competing against the big guys. Providing something unique and valuable to consumers is the reason most of us started a business in the first place, and positively differentiating yourself from larger, more established competitors can really help you gain a competitive advantage.
As a smart business owner, you need to keep your competitive advantage in mind constantly; it should be ingrained in your strategy, and evident on all fronts. This holds especially true when it comes to marketing online, since that’s where much of our focus goes. For many small businesses, the web has become the primary means of connecting with customers, and it is important to leverage this.
Social media is now one of the most effective ways for you to communicate with your customers, and provides some great opportunities for relaying your competitive advantage to your audience.
Great Customer Service
No matter what you’re offering, or what industry you’re in, owning a small business requires you to pay much closer attention to individual needs and concerns. Social media allows you to respond to consumers quickly and directly if they have any questions or concerns.
If customers know that it won’t take long to hear back, they should feel comfortable connecting with you in this way. If this becomes the standard, they can come to expect a high level of attentiveness from your business, and trust that you are there for them in all regards.
In fact, you may want to promote social media as the preferred means of communication when it comes to customer service. By doing this, you can effectively address customer needs while improving your web presence. Use this to your advantage, because when it comes to social media, individual attention to customers is something many big firms can’t keep up with.
Deliver the same level of customer service online as you would give to a customer at your physical location, even if you don’t have one. As we all know, great customer service is usually hard to find in big stores, and personal connections lead people to love and trust small businesses.
Tell Your Story
Nothing connects better with your consumers online than a great story. Use a narrative to show your small business’ progress over time. This works well either if you are just starting up or even if you are established and continuing to grow.
Social media is the perfect avenue for storytelling. Posting updates, pictures and videos of things happening behind the scenes helps tell your story. You can convey a side to your business that would not normally be seen by customers. Do it in a way that takes your audience along with you on your journey.
Not only does storytelling show the human side to your business; it adds a higher level of trust. It helps create transparency and assure customers that you are in business for all the right reasons. This approach is likely to keep customers coming back as they continue to follow your story and trust in what you offer.
Using visuals on social media provides a great opportunity to showcase your narrative. Posting interesting pictures can really bring the story to life and convey what you are trying to share more effectively. A bold picture with a creative headline will likely result in more engagement than a simple text post, so keep this in mind.
Sharing your story provides a great competitive advantage that big businesses simply can’t compete with. They can’t pretend to be small and showcase each of the steps along the way; there is little to no transparency and sometimes their motives are questionable. By highlighting that your business is personal and human, consumers get a more clear and honest view of your operation.
Better Feedback Channels
Small businesses have the ability to be much more flexible and responsive than their larger counterparts. Not only does this include customer service issues, but also the way they can receive feedback and grow from it.
Since social media is so direct and accessible to consumers, small businesses now have the ability to listen closely to what is being said about them. This may include suggestions about where improvements can be made, any potential for new product development, and where under-served markets remain.
Often, your target market can be your best business analyst and a source of valuable feedback. Making them aware that you are always open to this type of communication via social media makes you much more likely to receive feedback and suggestions.
People engage businesses in a variety of ways on social media. It’s important to keep a close eye on what the comments are, which sites you have the highest response rates, and who shares your content with their networks. This should help your get a better understanding of some potential opportunities even if they are not directly stated by your customers.
Being able to adapt quickly and put this valuable feedback into action can give your organization unmatched responsiveness. Social media certainly facilitates the communication, but it is up to you as a business manager or owner to utilize it and make the needed changes.
Keep The Advantage
It’s hard trying to keep up with the big guys, we all know that. In order to continue using your business’ size as an advantage you need to keep the communication going. Today, other than speaking face to face with customers, social media has become one of the best ways to stay in touch.
Use this ongoing conversation to make your competitive advantage clear, but also use it to listen. This is an equally important part of marketing online, making sure that your business can adapt and take advantage of any opportunities out there.
Kevin Gaertner is Co-Owner of Cyclone Strategies, a creative digital marketing agency which helps small businesses create and implement online marketing strategies. Read more tips and advice on his daily small business marketing blog.