Size doesn’t matter
Wednesday, April 27th, 2011
A decade ago, a business bestseller with the title “It's Not the Big That Eat the Small...It's the Fast That Eat the Slow: How to Use Speed as a Competitive Tool,” came out with a brief flurry of hype, then disappeared. Pity.
The book’s premise – that speed was the defining factor in business success – was forward-thinking at the time. Now, it’s become an essential survival tool.
If you have larger competition, whether it’s local or global – you have three common advantages: flexibility, nimbleness and the personal touch. All are important, but speed may be the deciding factor.
Consider these examples:
- Giant software companies are losing business to the cloud. Long-distance clients need to know much more than “we can do it,” they need to have confidence in your abilities. So show what you do, and include lots of customer comments. The crystal repair site does before-and-after photos of every job, and posts them on the site. If they can get customer comments on the job, they get posted as well.
But don’t stop there. Post your prices, or – if you have a complex pricing scheme – a calculator, configurator or other way for potential customers to estimate their cost. And create educational documents and tools… anything that can help remote customers decide to buy from you. Above all, do not default to a “call us for_____” statement; too many prospects will decide it’s too hard to do business with you.
- Do Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to help customers find you. Prospects find you on the Web through search results. SEO helps move your website closer to the top of the results…the ultimate goal is to get near the top of the first page of results. It’s far easier to get near the top when search terms are very specific. SEO tactics are varied and complex, including URL names, html coding, and key work research and selection. So either get some professional help, or – if you have some technical skills - spend time learning what works and how to do it. One of your better resources is a company called Hubspot (www.hubspot.com ), which supports do-it-yourself SEO with a wide range of support tools, and a relatively low monthly cost.
- Show off on YouTube. It’s the biggest video search engine on the internet, with 24 hours of video uploaded every minute and two billion (with a “b”) views every day. Other companies market there: 94 of the top 100 advertisers have run campaigns on YouTube…why not you. Most company videos are shot with a home video camcorder and edited with free software; in fact, the smartest producers deliberately downscale their videos to avoid looking “slick.” You can embed YouTube video on your site…millions of business sites already do.
- Build relationships over the distance. Once you have a customer, stay in touch. Say “thank-you” after a job is complete. Remind them once in a while that you’re still there…just in case someone they know faces the same problem. Referrals could be one of your best and least expensive tools for new business development. If you have an opportunity, “friend” them on Facebook, follow them of Twitter and link up in Linked-In. Social media is a perfect was to stay in touch without the potential pushiness of e-mail.
Yes, it will take some work to go national ( or international), But it’s far easier today than when journalists were gaga over the potential for every company to have a global market. If competition is making your current market too small, it’s time to redefine your service territory. Some of that new competition may be from others in your industry who have already gone global. Your window of opportunity is still there, but it will close fast.