When it comes to Internet commerce, competition is fierce. It can seem as though the whole Webosphere is out there clamoring for the attention of each and every user who dares to venture online. How does one compete with all of that hubbub to make your small business stand out online and to get your fair share of the market?
If you haven’t got a trainload of money to throw at the problem, how can you possibly compete against the big brands? Rest assured, you can; you’re local and unique! Read on to learn about some ways to make your local business stand out against your competitors.
Don’t Be a Copycat
It’s natural – and even necessary – to want to check out the competition in order to understand the market, determine pricing, and so forth. Be careful, however, not to spend so much time browsing competitors’ websites that you find yourself unconsciously copying them. You can’t stand out from the crowd if you look just like them.
Don’t be afraid to be creative, let your imagination flow, and come up with your own ideas for how you want your site to look, and what messages you want to send. Decide who your customers are to create your own brand that will appeal to your demographic.
Find an Unexplored Niche
Look for areas of your market that are untapped. Whether it’s an uncommon product that you sell or an unusual service that you offer, use that to lure in customers who may have been searching everywhere for it. If everyone in your market is offering Swedish massages and you also offer Thai massage, explore the many health benefits of Thai massage in your blogs, social media posts, and advertising to entice customers who may be looking for something different.
You can also take advantage of your passions, such as recycling, to attract like-minded customers. Declare yourself a “green” business and enumerate the efforts you have made to reduce your carbon footprint. If you use only organic products, if you donate a percentage of your profits to a charity, if you go out of your way to acquire the finest ingredients for your pizzas; whatever you do that’s different, use it as a selling point.
Promote Yourself as a Subject Matter Expert
People searching online are often looking for information. Being a provider of information and education will put you head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to search engine algorithms. Whether you simply share articles and information from other sites or go so far as to offer courses and training on a particular subject depends on your comfort level, but the more that people see you as a subject matter expert, the more you will stand out online.
Build a Solid Email List
This one may seem a bit obvious, but it’s easier said than done. Many people are reluctant to give up their email address, and those that do often give only a secondary one they use for just such purposes. You need to convince your customers that your emails will be worth reading. Email addresses obtained by offering a freebie are not nearly as valuable as those you get from people who read and enjoy your blog and subscribe for email notifications. Once again, setting yourself up as a subject matter expert and sharing valuable insights and knowledge is a great way to build a loyal following for your business.
Don’t be afraid to give credit where credit is due and champion those from whom you get some of your valuable insights. Find people who are doing great work in your field and promote them to your customers. Only self-important narcissists spend all their time talking about themselves, so show your audience that you recognize genius when you see it and put the spotlight on someone else now and again.
Be a Social Butterfly
Dedicate a portion of your time each day to social media sites, and not just to post helpful and informative content. Interact with your customers by inviting them to comment on changes you have made, new product lines you’ve added, or anything else you can think of. Always take time to respond to customer comments, good and bad, and thank them for their input.
Don’t be afraid to be provocative, and get people thinking and responding. If your posts are all sunshine and flowers, your audience will quickly become bored. You should always strive to bring something new to the conversation to create a dialog.
In summary, the best way to stand out online is to take advantage of the fact that you are a local business, and you can offer a level of personal service and interaction that the big brands cannot. Those who spend their time on social media sites are often the same customers who prefer to shop locally, so make the most of your unique, local branding!