If you own a small ecommerce business, this piece is for you. SMBs may lack financial resources and manpower, influence, or reach, but they still have a huge advantage over big companies.
You still own your complete branding, communication, and messaging. You have the freedom to decide your brand image and values. You can make changes fast and adapt while big ones need countless people to say yes or do their part. Small businesses are actually more adaptable, genuine and close to customers. This power is very useful for acquiring new customers and retaining old customers.
Also, more and more people are coming back to small, local businesses thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. This proves that people care where they shop from so you have a lot to offer! Corporations seem heartless with their focus on selling at all costs, but your business is more than that – it is your creation, your family’s income, your employees’ security.
This list can be a feel-good checklist for you or a basis for a new marketing communication strategy. By all means, use what you have and remember that big companies don’t have it. They make up for it with big marketing budgets but it’s not the same.
Here is a reminder of what you as as a small business owner can do better than the big ones plus examples of other inspiring companies that are doing their best in the face of competition.
When it’s you managing your business, every piece of marketing is much more personal. You give the direction. Chances are your businesses started as a solution to a problem you encountered yourself so you know the target group and their needs. Speaking their language is huge – and no consulting agency can do it well enough for you if you cannot put yourself in your customers’ shoes.
Personal stories are always strong in establishing a connection. You set the rules you play by and that opens up so many opportunities for being human and authentic with your customers. Ecoriginals make eco-friendly baby products – two parents started out with biodegradable nappies because nothing on the market was what they wanted for their kid. Their problem is that of many parents and they speak the same language of care for their children.
Being small often means limited resources. But it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Instead of celebrities being the face of your business, it’s probably you – founder and creator. This is your opportunity to speak to the world and offer your solution as you see it. Your passions, talents, and problems connect you to the audience and they trust you more. It’s much easier to relate to people like us than to an out-of-touch celebrity.
Fit2B is an online workout video platform. Its founder Beth Learn is the face of the business – she educates through all kinds of resources, records exercise videos, and puts together individual programs for members. She doesn’t hide – on the contrary, she shares her own experience, expertise, and mishaps with exercising. As a mother of two, she makes it easy for her clients to relate to her and trust her. That’s a more powerful connection than a faceless big brand can offer.
Authenticity shows in the stories your brand tells. Big brands talk about trends and sales, they don’t touch on what’s it actually to bring this product to life because their process is too complex and not transparent. You probably have more human stories to share. How you started, how you make your products, who your suppliers are, how you choose your materials – these are the important things to someone who owns his or her brand. The real stories behind products increase their value.
Even hardships can be turned into something positive with the right attitude. The guys from Silvery, a South African hand-crafted jewelry brand, openly share their roadblocks and new machine issues in an email. It shows the hidden side of crafting your own products and gives even more value to their efforts in the eyes of the customers. It is raw, honest and differentiating.
Family, care for the environment, love for animals, women empowerment, artisanship, local communities, a fair economy, quality, and innovation – your values shape your brand, but they also appeal to your customers.
You probably have a lot more in common with your target customers than you think. If they care about healthy eating, they probably care about saving the planet, too. The big players can have their mission statements but how are they actually living up to them? Who is healthier – the multinational soda company just starting to test compostable bottles or the small cold-pressed juice company that uses such bottles from day one and delivers via bikes and electric cars?
Silvery also aces this. Their emails and overall communication with patrons are genuine, easy-going and honest – like talking to a friend. The founders – a couple – are not afraid to talk about their baby at home and even show him to the world. They went through self-isolation during the coronavirus pandemic, connecting with their community over the values of family and doing what’s best for loved ones. This human down-to-earth tone really shows there are real people behind the brand, earning their living from it. It makes it so much easier to connect with the brand.
One of the main criticisms of big companies is that they outsource production and other functions far away, having only an office in a glass tower, removed from the community and their customers. You can be the exact opposite. Small brands, whether offline or online, are part of the local community – you, your employees, and your customers live in it so it’s natural that you help it thrive. You know what’s going on there and can find ways to give back. Truth is, the better off a community is, the better off the business is.
For example, Cricksy Dog, a Hungarian dog food company, works with 11 animal welfare associations and dog shelters in their area. They encourage people to donate to the organizations by reimbursing them with store vouchers.
How you treat your employees is becoming more and more important with layoffs and mistreatment from big names. Customers want to spend their money where others are treated fairly. Small businesses rely on their people. The founders work alongside employees. They partner up with like-minded friends for joint campaigns. Your team’s happiness is a selling point – people are happy to work here, so it’s worth spending with this business. So show off your team and let them share their passion and expertise. Customers love seeing the real people behind products.
Copan Trade, a coffee company, is one family business that’s been around for over 30 years and continues its tradition with “family pride”, a key value they highlight in all their communication. They share their journey with customers and train their sons in the same business ethics.
When you make what you sell, you know it through and through. You can answer any customer question and you are an expert in the field. Using this expertise can help your marketing a lot.
Brands that simply resell stuff resort to the usual marketing talk to ensure results – they are a bit afraid to stray away from what’s conventional about the product. But when you know you’re talking about, you can be more creative and unorthodox with your marketing. Even without a huge marketing budget, you can create engaging content, sharing your knowledge, and earning people’s respect.
Rancourt & Co., a handcrafted shoewear company, demonstrates its deep know-how by educating its customers about the types of leather, the ways to treat leather (“tanning”), and shoe construction. It helps connoisseurs connect with the brand and newbies to learn to appreciate it more.
Small brands can easily go out and meet their customers. Fairs, store tastings, sponsored events are all great ways to not only show yourself offline but to talk to your customers as well. Brands like Bonobos started from trunk shows. GRRRL organizes an annual conference on empowering women and has an online community where women can meet, network, and support each other.
Big brands sponsor glamorous events attended by celebrities or huge influencers at most. You can go the other way and meet the real people who buy your products, get some feedback, and nurture your community. Customers feel special when they get access to the person behind the brand, talk about their experience, and give suggestions.
Read more: How not to engage in price wars
We hope those examples inspire you to use your small business powers – being close to your customers and real about running a business is a great asset.
Metrilo’s mission is to help you build your ecommerce brand and win your place in the customer’s heart. We share what we learn from our daily work with product innovators and founders here. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to get the freshest lessons and conquer your niche.