But, there is promise on the horizon. SMEs count for 99.9 per cent of all private sector businesses in the UK, so from those statistics alone, it shows us how small and medium sized businesses are more than capable of competing with the big boys. What they need is to be equipped with the right tools and use the differences between them and their corporate competitors to their advantage.
The thing that businesses need to remember is the customer; the customer is the one who will decide who wins the battle, so make the customer the focus of your business, give them what they want and look after them: the battle is almost all but won.
As we say, SMEs can fight back and position themselves as worthy competitors, all they need is the right tools. Katherine Evans, from 0800NumberShop has put together our top 10 tips as to how businesses can ensure that they give themselves the best chance to win the competition:
USP – This is what sets you apart from any of your competitors, so it is crucial that you work out what makes your business special compared to anyone else and publicise it. It needs to be clear, from the off, in black and white (or your business’ colours) what you can give over any other business.
Look after your existing customers – Retention of customers can not only boost your business profitability by 75 per cent, but it also helps to give off a friendly and trustworthy image to prospective customers, who will think you’re obviously doing something right if you have customers who continually return to you. By offering rewards for repeat customers, providing a personalised service and just generally being friendly will ensure customers stay with you.
Corporate partnerships – Most large companies have a corporate responsibility to fulfil, meaning that they are required to give something back to the community, so many choose to team up with charities to satisfy this. Why not align your business with a charity of your choice, so that your business shows willing.
Promote a national presence with a non-geographic number – A non-geographic number promotes the image that your business is able to serve the whole of the UK easily, which immediately opens your business up to thousands more potential customers.
Customer service is important – There will ALWAYS be a demand for good customer service so it pays to make sure your customer service is the best it can be. Ask any consumer what they look for in a new company, customer service will almost always come at the top of their list.
Present a professional image – Make sure all of your marketing material, your website and your branding is professional and appealing. You may not have the same budget as your corporate competitors, but you are still able to present yourself in a professional manner. Ensure that all of your branding is consistent to ensure your business looks just as professional as any corporate company.
Invest in your web presence – It’s worth investing in building an easy-to-use and appealing website as this is most likely to be the consumer’s first interaction with your business. If your website is poor and/or difficult to use, the likelihood is that customers will go elsewhere.
Keep your employees happy – Your staff are the ones who are going to be interacting with the customers most often, so it pays to invest in them. Unhappy and unhelpful staff are going to send any potential customers straight to your competitors, so it pays to ensure your staff are happy in their work and know what they are doing. Well trained, competent and happy staff are key!
Use technology to your advantage – You probably don’t have hundreds or even tens of staff running your business day-to-day, but consumers don’t need to know that! You can easily give off the impression that you’re bigger than you are by using technology. Departmental emails, automated phone menus (IVRs) or IP telephony will easily help you look a lot bigger than you are without anyone ever realising any different.
Play to your strengths – Because you’re a smaller business, you have a lot more scope to offer customisation of your products and services. If the customer wants your service but isn’t happy about certain elements, you have the power to remove them easily, whereas it is a lot more difficult and time-consuming for corporate workers to be able to do so. This lets the customers know they’re going to get what they want and that you’re not going to rip them off!