Should You Really Make Your Small Business Seem Bigger?

If you’re a small business competing with much larger companies out there, the relative size of your company might have you feeling a bit insecure. Will your customers favor the security of larger competitors? Will they see weakness in a smaller business? And the big question that has led you here: should you take steps to make your business appear larger?

Be Who You Are

Let’s establish one solid idea here: you’re running a small business. If you’re feeling a bit insecure about this, it’s time to wipe that notion away forever – being a small business is your strength. It is not a weakness! If you’re not totally convinced, then just look at the data:

Here’s a Washington Post article showing Americans prefer small business.

An article in the UK discussing the customer service benefits of small business, and why customers are willing to pay more to shop at small businesses.

A 2013 survey that showed consumers were more satisfied with small business than large businesses, on the basis of how they were treated.

So by the measures that really count (what consumers want) – you’ve got it. Trying to appear bigger than you really are will only serve to hurt you in two major ways: 1) You’re presenting a false image for your customers, and consumers can smell a lie. 2) You’re eliminating one of the major advantages you actually have against large businesses. We’ve established that consumers love small business, and that you can’t pretend to be bigger or smaller than you are – so why give up one of your company’s intrinsic strengths? The last thing you need to figure out is how to really make this work for you.

Define Your Small Biz, and Advertise It

Take out a piece of paper, and draw two columns. One is for your large competitors, and one is for your small business. In the “large business” column, define all the parts of their business that you view as a threat. These are the points that might draw customers to their door. In fact, these might even be things that you saw in their business, envied, and considered copying to seem bigger! Some examples might be an automated phone system, a larger product offering catalog, bigger store, or the PR and advertising resources to attract large clients.

OK, great – we’ve defined the “big side” – now onto you. The most creative part of this exercise is looking at all those perceived threats to your business and coming up with awesome small business opposites of them – key offerings to your customers that are unique, valuable, and something only a small business like you could pull off. For example, does the large competitor feed customers through a massive automated phone system to finally reach someone? Why don’t you pick up the phone personally? If you think people will be turned off by a manager, employee, or even an owner picking up the phone…they won’t – they’ll be impressed. How about that large product catalog? As a hands-on owner/operator, you could sift through virtually every product in your industry and offer a small catalog of only the best – tell your customers you’ve spent the time weeding out the junk products so they don’t have to. The big business simply can’t do that.

By the end of all this, you should have a clear picture of what makes your business amazing, small, and why it’s such a huge competitive advantage. It’s the best shot you have to take business away from your larger competitors – but if nothing else, it feels amazing being who you actually are in business, as opposed to trying to be someone else.

Want the inside track on my latest ultra-efficient business hacks and tips? Follow me on Twitter @DenODonnell – I share my favorite business content on Twitter, usually before I get to writing an article about it on Starterist!