Many business owners are intimidated by large businesses, such as Wal-Mart or Home Depot, who may serve some of the same customers they do, providing similar products or services. These "institutional" competitors do have some awesome advantages in buying power and advertising budgets.
If independent competitors do some self-examination, they will discover they also have some important advantages. The most important competitive advantage they have may be the individuality or personality of the leaders of the business.
People don't like to do business with institutions. They like to do business with other people.
Have you ever walked into a Home Depot and felt totally lost? You had trouble finding anyone to help you find what you needed. "Where is the map to this place?"
When you communicate with your customers through your newsletter, your sales letters or your ads, use the voice of the spokesperson representing the business to the customer. (Maybe yours!) The customer should eventually feel the spokesperson is a trusted friend.
Here are some examples. Walt Disney. Colonel Sanders. Steve Jobs of Apple Computer and Bill Gates at Microsoft (vs. institutional IBM). Stew Leonard (whose grocery store "smokes" Safeway and Lucky in his community). Lee Iacocca (who used his personality to rebuild Chrysler vs. institutional General Motors, Ford, Toyota and Honda).
Sometimes the spokesperson is fictional, like Betty Crocker!
Yes, some of the examples are big businesses, but these are the exceptions, not the rule. Also, notice many of them started as "the underdog" in a "David vs. Goliath" situation.
As a member of your community, your customers or prospective customers can more easily identify with your spokesperson than with faceless, nameless Wal-Mart or Home Depot. Then you need to give them reasons to do business with you. "I am a parent just like you. I enjoy taking my daughters out for a day of fun at an amusement park, but I couldn't find one that I really liked. So I made the kind of amusement park I would like to take my children to. I think you'll like it, too! Bring your family over and see what you think." (Disneyland.)
Adopt this strategy -- identify and actively promote your business using a spokesperson that your customers like and trust -- and you can successfully compete with the giants!
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