When you’re a very small business or even a single-person operation, it can be very tempting to fill your website with things that make you look bigger. You know what I’m talking about. You say “we” all the time instead of “I”. You use generic photos of pretty women in headsets to suggest you have some sort of call center. You do everything you can to suggest that your operation is more substantial that it really is.
Stop doing that.
I know it seems like you’ll never be able to compete in the open market with the big dogs, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a small shop or even a single-person business. In fact, a lot of customers are embracing working with smaller companies because they want to help their local economy or because small businesses generally care more about building relationships with their customers.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that big businesses are becoming passe. Large businesses are very powerful and have a lot of resources they can leverage.
That’s all very exciting, but small businesses have a lot to offer as well.
Small Business & Community
The nature of a small businesses makes it naturally more connected with the community, and working with someone who is both established with the community and understands how it works offers a number of benefits.
Now, when I say community here, I’m not just talking about a certain town or region. Community can certainly be geographic, but the definition is far more broad than that.
For instance, if you’re a small machine shop and you need to find health insurance for your employees, odds are you’re going to ask around to other small machine shop owners you know about who they’ve worked with in the past and who they would recommend. The insurer that’s established with that community of businesses already knows their specific needs, and has built up his/her network to best suit them.
Small business can – and should – do that. Bigger businesses generally can’t.
Unlike big businesses, which try to do everything, single-person operations and small shops tend to focus their efforts on specific things. That focus can often have a lot of secondary benefits, especially when it dovetails into their clients’ specific industries.
This one works quite nicely with our previous example, so let’s just build from there.
That small insurer that specializes in insuring employees at machine shops? They can put together specific offerings that target the customers’ exact needs. The big insurers, on the other hand, need their product offerings to appeal to the biggest possible number of customers. Simply put, the big guys can’t afford that level of specialization.
Lean & Mean
The big guys have a lot of infrastructure in place to support themselves. With that massive size comes a lot of power, certainly, but it also comes with an incredible amount of overhead and inefficiency. The little guys, by contrast, have to be lean. If they’re not as efficient as possible, then they’re generally not in business for very long.
Working with a small business means you can take advantage of that efficiency, and that can come out in a number of ways. Pricing structures can be more generous (although the big guys can usually match this on account of volume), but it also means that you won’t get bogged down with a lot of stuff that doesn’t apply to you. There’s less jumping through hoops.
This last item is probably the most important. A big business is like a high speed train. It’s a well-oiled and specifically designed machine that goes very fast along a predefined route. When that business wants to expand into other markets, it takes a lot of research and infrastructure changes before it can actually start (you have to build the tracks, after all).
The little guys have a lot more freedom to be flexible, experiment, and put themselves outside their comfort zone. This allows them to get ahead of trends and live on the bleeding edge. There’s a lot of strength in flexibility, and you won’t find that in mega-corporations.
Embrace Being the Little Guy
Big business can do a lot, but it has it’s limitations just like the little guys do. Small business is powerful; you should embrace it and be up front about it. Representing yourself as something different than you really are might get a conversation started (although that’s arguable), but eventually everything is going to come out.
Be the little guy, offer a great product and service, and play to your strengths. Don’t fake it.