There’s never been a more exciting time to start a small business. With the spread of digital tools (like PicMonkey!) that allow people to perform tasks across widely varying disciplines, there are less hurdles in getting a great idea to market. Maybe it’s time to get your small business started, or to reinvigorate the one you’ve got. We asked CEOs and strategists to talk about the ways in which small businesses have an edge over their larger, more established competitors.
1. Agility at the speed of business
“Small businesses can use their agility as a competitive advantage. The smaller the company, the less red tape there is,” says Will Reynolds, CEO of SEER Interactive, a digital marketing agency that advises top brands. “With less red tape, think about how many web site A/B tests you can make in the same time that your big competitor might, if at all? Just take a look at the twitter feed of Stone Brewing — 44,000 followers — versus Corona with a paltry 1800. I bet Corona’s marketing budget is a hundred times that of Stone Brewing, yet the smaller business has engaged a ton more on a FREE platform.”
2. Customer-centric product development
A large corporation’s grasp of its customers’ desires is often filtered through focus groups and data crunching run by out-of-house research firms. Small businesses can reach out more directly and react more quickly. “I can ask customers what they think, invite them into product development, and speak to them transparently on Facebook as the CEO and Founder,” says Jane Park, CEO of Julep, a brand known for its use of crowdsourcing and social feedback to create new makeup and skincare products. “Whether it’s brainstorming, celebration or an apology, I learn so much from talking with our customers girlfriend to girlfriend.”
3. Niche products
Most big businesses can’t afford to create a product unless they have a strong chance of capturing major market wins, which keeps them away from smaller, niche products. “Our customers demand unique experiences and are willing to pay for that. In my view, meeting that requirement is so much easier in a small company, where employees are expected to take a more personal approach, rather than in a large firm, where they inevitably need to work with standardized products and services.” Erling Aspelund, Owner, Iceland Encounter, a luxury travel firm.
4. Passion-driven profit
Chris Brogan, business strategist and best-selling author of “The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth: Entrepreneurship for Weirdos, Misfits, and World Dominators” tells people to use their own passions and unique experiences as a divining rod for creating a small business. “When you make it your business to find people who are the same kind of freak as you, you’ll profit from serving that community in some form or fashion.” Small business allows you to let go of “fitting in” and build a community of customers based on common values.
5. Personal 1:1 touches
Everyone likes to feel valued and a small businesses can provide those small flourishes that delight. PicMonkeyer Chelsea Hurst, Marketing Director at The Hairbow Company, shared via Twitter that her company trumps the big guys because “We can go out of our way to add special personal touches with the sole purpose of making someone smile.”
6. Relationship-based selling
When your product designer is also the person working the floor at conferences and hanging out on social media, you get to know your customers really well. Chris Brogan points out that “Small businesses have the opportunity to get as personal as possible with their clients and customers, allowing for a more relationship-based selling approach. This leads to better long term retention as well as improved referrals.”
7. Easier market entry
Small businesses can bring their niche products straight to their ideal clients at a relatively low cost through online marketplaces. Lisa White, proprietor and designer at Moxie Pear Creative, explains “Sites like Etsy help the small business owner test their products in an already established market. It’s a lot easier to gain customers from a marketplace that has an existing base than trying to start from scratch out on your own.”
8. You’re the boss
Small businesses, whether they’re bricks-and-mortar or on the web, can create their own happy little universe. You define your culture, your product values, and your method of engaging with customers. “What’s the fun of leaving a big company to do a startup if you simply copy everything they do?” says PicMonkey’s CEO Jonathan Sposato. “Small business ownership necessarily trains you to think 180 degrees differently. Your money is on the line. Your name is at stake. Once you’ve launched your own business, you will never go back.”