Can Your Small Business Compete with the Big-Box Stores?

by Sherryl Perry on June 13, 2012

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Let’s face it. We’re all consumers. So, what makes us buy from one business instead of another? What’s the motivation behind your buying decisions? Does your website represent your business well enough that you can attract new customers based on your Internet presence alone?

While on vacation last week, we decided to do some minor renovations. Waking up one morning to a forecast of rain for the rest of the week, we suddenly decided that it was time to replace our wall to wall carpeting. We also decided that we needed it done within the week.

The Criteria Behind our Buying Decision

Whenever someone makes the decision to buy, they go through similar steps (consciously or unconsciously). The motivation to buy something may be driven by a need (out of milk) or a desire (that popcorn smells really good). Sometimes we need longer to make the actual decisions of what to buy. For example, if you’re making a major purchase such as buying  a car, you may have favorite brands or you may want to conduct research on safety issues and consumer reports. In our case, we had certain criteria that were a major component in our buying decision.

  • Quality
  • Price
  • Delivery/Installation time

From Research to Buying

Since replacing our carpet was not a trivial decision, we weren’t approaching it lightly but we were definitely motivated buyers. (We absolutely wanted new carpeting installed in less than 10 days.)

Not being huge fans of big businesses, my husband and I make every effort to support small local businesses when we can. However, we were under a time crunch and we needed to start somewhere. So, we started our research at the two local big-box stores. (At least the big box stores were still open.) We headed off with questions, looking for free advice and to do to some comparative shopping.

The Little Guy with a Web Presence

After checking out what the competition could do for us, the next step was to do a quick search on the web to find local carpet stores. I Googled on carpet and my zip code and up popped a business called Wholesale Flooring less than 10 miles from our house. I had never heard of this business before. It’s tucked into a mostly vacant mill in the old industrial section of a city that is now struggling for business. If they hadn’t had a website (that was optimized enough for SEO to appear in my search results), we would never have known they were there.

Their website is fairly standard with several pages of information including their about us page. Some people treat their “about” pages as after thoughts but this particular company uses theirs to connect on a personal level. By reading this page, I learned that:

  • They’ve been in the area since 1976.
  • They’re a family owned business.
  • They offer an extensive selection of up-to-date designs.
  • They carry a large inventory.
  • They pride themselves in the “best customer service”.
  • They offer “professional courteous installation:

After browsing their website, we decided they were the local business that we would check out before we made our buying decision. The next morning we were pleasantly surprised when we entered the doorway of an old mill and walked into an updated showroom where we were promptly greeted by a sales associate.

A Victory for Small Business

Within minutes, the store owner was giving us personal attention. After assessing our needs, he escorted us into his warehouse where he showed us a selection that was in our price range and could be installed within our time frame. After offering us a deeper discount and arranging for installation (in 3 business days), he shook our hands and sealed the deal. (We were happy with a better quality carpet than we had expected and installed even sooner than we had hoped.)

As a small business owner/entrepreneur, how do you differentiate yourself from your competitors? If you operate a brick and mortar business, does your website appear in the search results when someone is searching based on their location? What tips do you have that can help small businesses compete?

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{ 78 comments… read them below or add one }

Nikki
Twitter:
March 12, 2013 at 11:50 pm

I’m actually not worried about competing with the big name companies. Because they don’t have personal relationships with their consumers like I do. Most of the big brands earn customer loyalty over time. I can earn customer loyalty with one simple instance of helping someone. Even though my audience may not be as large, I guarantee you they do just as much.Quality over quantity, right? :)
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Sherryl Perry March 15, 2013 at 10:00 pm

I like your positive attitude Nikki and I agree with you. A lot of consumers value relationships and a lot of us really would prefer to do business with someone that we like. It sounds like you differentiate your business and that is great. The last thing a small business owner wants to find themselves doing is to have to compete based on price.

Thanks for taking the time to weigh in on this.
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praveen August 13, 2012 at 7:56 am

hmm..generally most og us starts the business with small word then it becomes big…after taking sometime. But there are ways, as u hv stated in ur post by which even with a small business u can compete with big1’s…just wanna say thoughtful….:)
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Sherryl Perry August 13, 2012 at 11:38 am

Hi Praveen,
It’s good to see you here. It seems to me that (especially in an economy like this), a lot of us really rooting for the little guy. We have to know they’re there though. If this small business did not have a website (that showed up based on my location), there would have been no way for him to have made that sale.
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Aayna August 2, 2012 at 7:57 pm

Hey Sherryl,
A wonderful share. The manner in which you highlighted the various aspects of a small business is amazing. I feel that to gain customers even a small business should have a market presence in the various search engines, For attracting new customers, the online marketing is one of the best tools. In my opinion, a small business should not worry much about the competition, instead should focus on their services, their products and the prices. They should aim to excel in their niche as the first step.

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Sherryl Perry August 3, 2012 at 1:51 pm

Hi Aayna,
Great advice about not worrying about the competition. It’s important to differentiate ourselves and focusing on the benefits of our services and products is key. Customers only really care about what’s in it for them. How do they benefit?

I do think it’s important to check out the competition when you’re running PPC (pay-per-click) advertising campaigns. I always advise clients to run a search on the keywords that they’re planning on bidding on and pay attention to the ads that come up on the first page. If the majority of their competition is offering something (like free shipping), it is probably wise for them to offer it too. I also advise people who are building a new site (or redesigning one) to look at competitor sites for ideas and inspiration. In this case, I recommend to not limit it to your local competition. See who comes up high organically in the search engines. It doesn’t matter where they are, you can still get some ideas.
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dipa July 16, 2012 at 3:45 am

What a great story! Loved how you put your practical experience to make your point. This is the second time in the day that i have read posts that have urged readers to “tweak their About pages”. This has surely helped me to act on it. Thanks for your wonderful posts.

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Sherryl Perry August 3, 2012 at 1:41 pm

Hi Dipa,
I’m so sorry that I didn’t reply to this comment from you. Somehow, it slipped by while I was struggling with computer issues. Thanks for letting me know that you enjoyed both this post and others. I appreciate that you take the time to comment.

Our “about” pages can be very valuable.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..Content Writing: The Most Formidable Online Marketing StrategyMy Profile

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Jean July 13, 2012 at 8:40 am

The web has made it much easier for a smalltime store to sustain itself than ever before. Your example of the carpet store is a great example. Who would have even known of that store’s existence if not for the web? Smalltime businesses must try to take full advantage of it but making their website as useful as possible.

-Jean

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Sherryl Perry July 13, 2012 at 11:29 am

Small businesses are at a disadvantage if they don’t have a website. This carpet store is absolutely amazing and the customer service is superb. However, their location is horrible and the only print advertising I saw for them was a small (unprofessional looking) sign nailed to a telephone pole. Their website definitely is responsible for us finding them.
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Advin July 13, 2012 at 1:59 am

Excellent idea is the best way to increase any small business. If you are going to start any small business then first search your competitors and try to find which techniques followed by them. I am not saying to follow those methods but try to find new ideas from those tricks. Any business must require to marketing with perfect panning. You have to manage all things about business, nothing more.

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Sherryl Perry July 13, 2012 at 11:25 am

Checking out your competition is good advice Advin. It’s important to differentiate ourselves but at the same time, if all your competitors are offering free shipping, it makes sense for you you offer free shipping too because that may be the expectation that has been set by the customer.

Thanks for dropping by and joining the conversation. :)
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Harry July 10, 2012 at 11:10 pm

Any small business can beat its bigger competitors if they have the right method, suitable for their ability and resources. But firstly, don’t even try to compete with anyone, just try. Sometimes success means self-overcome.

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Todd Ossenfort
Twitter:
July 11, 2012 at 5:01 am

Small business is the heart of true american commerce. The little guy can survive in today’s more competitive financial and business marketplace thanks to the web and the failure of big box stores to remember one fine retail point: customer service.
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Sherryl Perry July 11, 2012 at 6:16 pm

That’s a great point Todd and great advice Harry. Small business owners can succeed by working hard and distinguishing themselves in ways such as offering superior customer service.
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Diane
Twitter:
July 11, 2012 at 6:35 pm

Sherryl, one thing that can help small business to be heads above the big busineses, is with customer service where you ask the customer’s name, remember it and use it to get to know them personally. Build important relationships and you will keep them, regardless of price, because a lot of people really value being made to feel like they are your special customers (and they are!!) Ask about their families, and be genuinely interested in them, what they do etc. They will then send their families and friends to your trusted business.

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Sherryl Perry July 12, 2012 at 10:28 am

That’s an excellent suggestion Diane. I always jot down notes in address book on Outlook to track some of the things that you mention. I used to maintain a database for this but just simple notes in Outlook serves the purpose. People appreciate it when you mention something important (like a birthday or anniversary) and are usually genuinely impressed that you cared enough to remember.

This tip is also great for developing relationships with business people who you meet at networking events. I used to be a serious networker (Chambers of Commerce, BNI, trade associations) and I developed the habit of jotting down info on the backs of the business cards that I collected. Then, I transferred that to my Outlook address book. If I’m trying to reconnect with an business acquaintance, it’s very helpful to be able to remind them of how we met and when.
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Edward July 8, 2012 at 3:01 pm

It’s always nice to look and support your nearby business and community if you’re able to. A lot of individuals say they do or even will, but sometimes it boils down to price and it may be tough for a small company to compete with large business prices and offers.

If the price is rather close then great, but I think in this economy many people are trying to cut costs anyway they can. If it means obtaining a better deal at the actual big company that is what many people seem to be performing. It also depends on the service or product.

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Sherryl Perry July 10, 2012 at 10:26 pm

I agree with you Edward. I don’t mind paying a little more to do business with the small local stores but if it’s a substantial difference, I will go to the bigger stores. It’s unfortunate that some small businesses simply can’t compete with businesses that can buy in large quantities.
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Amy Turner
Twitter:
July 7, 2012 at 7:19 am

It’s important that a customer feels he is being given the appropriate attention when looking to buy from you. Personally, I easily get disheartened when I feel I’m not being attended well by the sales clerk. The result is I can’t wait to get out of the store.

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Sherryl Perry July 7, 2012 at 11:45 am

Agreed! On the other hand, lots of times I like to just browse and not have a sales person hovering over me. Then, there are the sales people who pretend to be knowledgeable about a product when they’re not. I don’t blame the sales people though. In most cases, they simply lack the proper skills and that reflects poorly on the business.
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Carrie
Twitter:
July 5, 2012 at 11:47 am

It’s an amazing story. I highly agree that quality is the most important criterion in buying a product. However, what happens to those who think that brand is the most important factor? How can small businesses compete then? Like, I have friends around me who think that big brands equal to best qualities, which is not true all the time. Plus, big brands usually have terrible customer services. I am tired of calling them and getting voice messages — it’s frustrating and annoying, and it’s a big waste of my time! However, they don’t seem to be a lot of small, good-quality businesses around where I live. Besides Google searching (I doubt all small businesses have a website), is there any other way to find out small businesses around you?

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Sherryl Perry July 5, 2012 at 10:18 pm

Hi Carrie,
Thanks for sharing your opinions with us. I’d say you’re testament to the fact that small businesses need to have websites. If the carpet store had not had a website, they would never have got my business.

As for those people who are loyal to a specific brand, I would say that if you’re not selling that particular brand, then they’re not your ideal customer. It’s similar to people who only buy the lowest price. If those aren’t your ideal customers, than I suggest targeting someone else. Identify the needs of those people who don’t buy based purely on brand or price and position the benefits of your product/service to them. Convince them that you’re the company that can best serve their needs.
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Carrie
Twitter:
July 6, 2012 at 12:31 pm

Indeed. I agree that instead of wasting time to try to convince stubborn people that brand or price isn’t the only criterion in buying stuff, small businesses might end up better off focusing on other target customers. Do you think TV ads or newspaper ads would help promoting small businesses? I mean, these are frequently used by big guys but wouldn’t they be too expensive for small businesses?

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Diane
Twitter:
July 6, 2012 at 4:49 pm

Carrie, I would like to take up your idea with TV ads or newspaper ads, with a couple of comments. Firstly you have to do a lot of repeat ads to get noticed and found when advertising on TV and in newspapers, and secondly if you don’t have enough stock or sufficient trained staff to carry out your service professionally then you can also fall down, by using ads, because you may get swamped with too much business. If you have lots of spare cash, which most small businesses don’t, then putting your time and energy into a good website, that has SEO for local searches, and product searches can be a much better use of your resources.

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Sherryl Perry July 7, 2012 at 11:38 am

Hi Carrie,
Thanks to Diane for her input! I have never considered TV ads personally but I have run ads in magazines (including Entrepreneur and PC Photo. Diane is absolutely right about having to run your ads multiple times for them to be effective. (I don’t know if the advice has changed but it used to be a minimum of 3 or 4 times per ad.)

Before I invested in paid advertising, I made sure that I understood exactly who I was targeting and what my call to action was. Before I invested in the magazine ads, I tested my copy in local papers and small targeted trade publications. I was also working with a consultant from the SBA (Small Business Association) at the time. (That’s a free service in the U.S. that I like to think of it as being my tax dollars at work.) His advice was invaluable.

I also experimented with eBay’s free classified ads. That was another opportunity to tweak my message before I invested in the more expensive options.
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Carrie
Twitter:
July 9, 2012 at 12:36 pm

Hi Sherryl, hi Diane,
Thank you both for your replies. They’ve been very helpful.
Diane, thanks for letting me know about the repetitions of ads on TV in order for them to be effective. Now that I think of it, I do hear about the same ads multiple times during a regular, 30 minutes/1 hour show (and getting annoyed by the ads yes).
And Sherryl, I appreciate that you put down some free advertising options. I’ve never known them before. Thanks for letting me know. I will go check them out. They seem like pretty good options, especially the SBA. Having a consultant with experience will come in handy when a small business is advertising. Thank you!

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Sherryl Perry July 10, 2012 at 11:16 pm

Carrie,
Before I found the SBA consultant who helped me so much, I worked with another SBA consultant. She is a very nice woman who was very supportive but what I needed at the time was brutal honesty and she was just too nice. (The idea that I was pursuing at the time was doomed for failure and the second consultant didn’t hesitate in telling me so.)

At the time, I was very active in the Chamber of Commerce. It was through networking at the Chamber that I learned of the second consultant. I asked to meet with him and I had to really convince him that I needed his help. (Since I was already working with another consultant, he was reluctant to agree to work with me at first.) In hindsight, I think that if I had been clearer on my needs (when I requested help in the first place), I may have been assigned him in the beginning. Bottom line, becoming active in other networking opportunities provided valuable insight into what sort of help I really needed.
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Bharat Bhushan June 29, 2012 at 3:02 am

Hi,
I appreciate your post.it’s a nice comparision.Quality. price and services are the main criterion. Every big business was once small.
Thank you for sharing this great post with us.
Bhushan Bhushan
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Sherryl Perry June 29, 2012 at 3:32 pm

Hi Bharat,
“Every big business was once small.” – That’s a great way of looking at it! :)
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Dennis Salvatier
Twitter:
June 25, 2012 at 12:30 am

I think the best advice I can is just be good to your customers. I guess I’m old fashioned in this way. Much like the carpet sellers in your story, I try to go above and beyond. I think people remember that and come back or refer you. Sure, SEO on your site will help a great deal, but giving your work a personal touch can be long lasting.
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Sherryl Perry June 25, 2012 at 10:53 am

“Be good to your customers” just about sums it up Dennis. Referral business is a terrific way of growing a business.Thanks for dropping by and joining the conversation.
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zourkas
Twitter:
June 24, 2012 at 6:11 am

Hello!!

My personal view about this issue is that people need to trust to someone in order to buy something… We all internet marketers have to know that people want solutions to their problems and if there is someone who is able to solve these problems then people pay for results !!

Thank you,
zourkas

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Sherryl Perry June 24, 2012 at 10:31 pm

Thanks for weighing in on this topic Zourkas. Trust is huge when it comes to doing business with someone. As you can see from reading through the comment section here, many of us refuse to buy on price alone and as small business owners, many of us will go that extra step to support other small business owners. I find that encouraging.
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Walter Jeff June 25, 2012 at 1:32 am

I agree with you Zourkas, I still remember that time when i purchased a watch online and that was my first online shopping, it was a big risk for me to buy something online but every thing went so good and now its really good to buy something online rather than going outside.
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Alex Peskou June 21, 2012 at 5:11 am

I as a consumer of goods and services, has collected its own system of choice of business.
When it comes to service, I call up and ask all the friends who have used a similar type of service. What they liked and disliked, whether they are ready to advise the business for me.
The choice of products is usually limited to visiting the big stores to see live, and after the purchase through the Internet.
There’s only one problem, I often stuck with the choice of similar products, I spend too much time to study details, features, reviews on the Internet.
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Sherryl Perry June 21, 2012 at 2:17 pm

Hi Alex,
I enjoy researching products and reading reviews online. Getting recommendations from friends is always helpful too.
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Patricia Weber
Twitter:
June 19, 2012 at 12:44 pm

Making me think about this now! It’s certainly a check up I need to do. While it’s not a conscious decision I make “buy from small business”, because of our local community networking I find I know so many small businesses anyway. They naturally go to the top of my list for consideration when I have anything to buy. Now for me, I’m going to ask myself your questions about my own small business difference.

Thanks.

Patricia Weber from LinkedIn BHB group

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Sherryl Perry June 19, 2012 at 1:00 pm

Hi Patricia,
I’m no longer involved in any local networking groups but I used to be active in a couple of Chambers of Commerce and two different BNI groups (along with a few other niche groups). Those are all excellent resources for finding local businesses. Even though I no longer actively participate, I remain friends with many of them and we’re now connected on sites like LinkedIn. I still patronize many of their businesses and I wouldn’t hesitate to ask for recommendations too.

Thanks for taking the time to visit and for adding to the conversation.
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Susan Cooper
Twitter:
June 19, 2012 at 11:08 am

Like you, I seek out a local businees owner first before making my buying decision. Generally they go above and beyond to ensure I am happy with the final outcome. I have rarely been disappointed.

Being in a business of any kind is hard work. Being in business without visibility is virtually impossible. I love the way you were able to demonstrate the importance of a good website and once at the business location how impressed you were. The quote “under promise, over deliver” comes to mind. That is sage advice for anyone working towards a successful business model.

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Sherryl Perry June 19, 2012 at 11:37 am

That’s a great quote Susan. It was the customer service that impressed me the most in this experience. I will definitely recommend them in the future. I did let the business owner know how I found them. If their site hadn’t appeared so prominently in the search results, I could very well have gone to another local business instead. The owner told me that both of his children were online and that they were the ones who are responsible for their website. I told him to tell them, they’re doing a good job. :)
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Bill Murney
Twitter:
June 19, 2012 at 10:50 am

Hi Sherryl

Too many small businesses in the UK have closed because the ‘big boys’ have killed them by working on tight margins. What the superstores cannot compete on is customer service, in fact most don’t know the the first thing about it. I assume it’s the same scenario in the USA.

While price and delivery time are obviously an issue to be considered, I always buy on quality. In fact I always say – “buy cheap, buy twice”.

For those that have a small business website and have put some effort into SEO there is no reason why they can’t compete with the superstores. They can beat them hands down on customer service and if the price differential isn’t great then they will get the business.

This is especially so for a small local business where to attain a front page ranking is far easier from an SEO angle. Unfortunately too many small businessess don’t appreciate this fact and think a website is a small part of marketing when in fact it should be the major part.

Bill

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Sherryl Perry June 19, 2012 at 11:48 am

Hi Bill,
I find customer service at most superstores to be frustrating at best. I am so tired of asking for advice and having someone pick up the box and read it to me. (Unfortunately, there is only one store left locally where we can go to for technology products and this happens to me all the time.) For the most part, I’m up to date on what I’m looking for but if I have questions, I’ll do the research online and if I don’t need it immediately, I usually buy it online too. If I do want to see it in person or buy it right away, I research it myself and go to the store prepared. I miss the days when there were more small businesses around here where their staff was knowledgeable about their products.

Some small businesses do not understand the importance of being online and for some, they think creating a Facebook page will suffice. We just need to keep getting the word out! :)

Thanks for letting me know about CommenLuv. I received an email from Andy that there’s an update. I’ll have to install it. This recent update of WP has been causing quite a few glitches that need to be addressed.
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Rose M Griffith
Twitter:
June 19, 2012 at 7:49 am

Sherryl,
This post is timely since I’m working on web content for my CPA’s new website. He is the epitome of honest, straight-talking and responsive. You’ve given me some good ideas on how to convey that on his site.

Then I must fix my own!
Rose

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Sherryl Perry June 19, 2012 at 11:25 am

Hi Rose,
Thanks for letting me know that you got some good ideas from my post. I know what you mean about wanting to fix your own site. I have a list of tweaks for this site that I never get around to doing. I’m always joking that I should take myself on as a client! :)
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Bethany Lee
Twitter:
June 18, 2012 at 7:10 pm

I love that you could go to their about page and quickly find those facts (which you listed in bulleted points). Everytime I go to buy or even just to gain information, I always look for the about page. It can make or break whether I stay on that website. I am not a small business “yet” but I am all for having a blog to keep that new content for Google. As long as you have the resources and time to do it, of course, if a small business makes the effort to post on a blog it can also help their overall SEO so that they do show up in searches like yours. I’d be interested in knowing what this carpet business was doing right to show up in your search.
Glad you got your carpet at a discount and installed in the time you hoped (and sooner!).

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Sherryl Perry June 19, 2012 at 10:58 am

Hi Bethany,
I have bookmarked an excellent article on how local businesses can use a Google+ Local profile page to promote their business. If you get a chance, check out, Google Places Is Over, Company Makes Google+ The Center Of Gravity For Local Search.

I don’t know if this carpet company has done this or if they had started out using Google Places. Maybe someone else here can offer more insight into this. Thanks for weighing in on this.

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Leora
Twitter:
June 18, 2012 at 6:24 pm

The way my clients (of those that are small to medium-sized businesses) compete is demonstrating customer service and paying attention in a way that a big business cannot.

But if a potential customer sees a lower ticket price elsewhere, sometimes they must learn the hard way that cheaper does not equal good quality.
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Sherryl Perry June 19, 2012 at 10:21 am

There will always be people who purchase based solely on price. Thankfully, there are many of us who prefer good customer service. Thanks for weighing in on this Leora.

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Steve
Twitter:
June 18, 2012 at 2:33 pm

That’s a nice story Sherryl and some very valid points about local web presence too. So glad to hear that you make a point of looking for small local businesses first. It’s good for your community to support your local businesses.
In the UK, you can usually get a better price and the customer service you get from a family run business is often second to none.
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Sherryl Perry June 19, 2012 at 10:14 am

Hi Steve,
In the US, the big box stores tend to have the best prices. Although, there are some hidden gems like the carpeting that I found. Of course, the quality at the big stores is often inferior. So, as a consumer, we always have to weigh our options and determine what’s important to us. I’m definitely willing to pay a little extra to support local businesses when I can. The other option is to buy online Where I live, there is basically one store (Best Buy) where we can shop for technology products. Their prices on simple things like cables is outrageous and we may price them there if we have an urgent need but we always end up buying those items on eBay.
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harrysom
Twitter:
June 18, 2012 at 4:10 am

I appreciate your post sherryl.it’s a nice comparision between small business and with big stores.provide a quality products to a customers in a appropriate price will help to increase small business revenue.

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Sherryl Perry June 18, 2012 at 10:27 am

Hi Ricky,
Thanks for letting me know that you appreciated my post. Whenever I see a small business who has successfully used the Internet to promote their business, I’m impressed. :)
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Ray June 15, 2012 at 8:48 pm

It’s always nice to shop and support your local business and community if you can. A lot of people say they do or will, but sometimes it comes down to price and it can be tough for a small business to compete with big business prices and deals. If the price is fairly close then great, but I think in this economy a lot of people are trying to save money anyway they can. If it means getting a better deal at the big company that is what a lot of people seem to be doing. It also depends on the product or service. Some are more competitive than others.
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Sherryl Perry June 17, 2012 at 9:41 am

That’s so true Ray. There are certain items that the small shops just can’t be competitive with. It’s very challenging for small business owners to be competitive in this economy and we often make purchases based solely on price too. We were very happy to be able to make this purchase at a small business.
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Catarina
Twitter:
June 15, 2012 at 11:17 am

Excellent example of the importance for a small business to have an excellent web site, Sherryl.

If they hadn’t been on the web you would have most likely ended up bying from one of the big stores.

Personally like buying from companies that have been in the area since “1976”, provided they have what I need and like. They have relied on word of mount for almost 40 years so you can be certain that they deliver what they promise.
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Sherryl Perry June 15, 2012 at 6:34 pm

Hi Catarina,
I was really hoping to find at least one local business that I could visit before resorting to one of the big stores. I never expected to find one so close. They’re so tucked away in an obscure mill, that I honestly had never heard of them. Even when we went looking for their address, all we saw for advertising was a small handmade sign that was nailed to a telephone pole. Since they also cater to local contractors, that must be the bulk of their business. You know that we’ll be recommending them highly in the future.
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Kit Kat June 15, 2012 at 2:04 am

Most big corporations started small, this is what I think a small business should do to compete in today’s business world.

1. Good internet presence thru – SEO, Social Media
2. Differentiate your business with good service
3. As your business grow bigger differentiate your business with good products.

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Sherryl Perry June 15, 2012 at 6:28 pm

Hi Kit Kat, Your recipe seems to be the key to success that my new carpeting company has been using. :)
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Jeannette Paladino blogging, branding
Twitter:
June 14, 2012 at 12:46 pm

Sherryl — You were buying a pretty big ticket item with your carpeting. But I received the royal treatment from printingforless.com (good name), a company in Montana that my designer recommended for my business cards. I couldn’t quite figure out how to upload my file so I called the 800 number and a very pleasant representative walked me through the process and assured me the order had gone through.

Later I received a call from someone in the printing department. He told me the colors would actually be a little darker when printed because you’re looking a different media when you view something on a computer monitor and did I want to ask my designer to change the color? I said no I’d actually like them a little darker. A couple of days later my cards arrived — beautifully printed and boxed. A day later, a customer service rep called to ask if I was satisfied, which I was. A week later I received a coffee mug in the mail. All this service for an order that totaled under $100. Guess who I’m using for all my printing needs from now on?
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Sherryl Perry June 15, 2012 at 6:26 pm

Not only are you using PrintingForLess.com for your business but you’ve also become a brand ambassador for them Jeannette. Your experience proves one other way how small business can compete by providing superior customer support and service. Thanks for taking the time to share your experience with us.
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Ann
Twitter:
June 14, 2012 at 12:16 pm

Hi Sherryl,
This is such a great debated topic. Personally, we always try to deal with a local small merchant because we feel that they are our economy and need our support. Big business does have a system for just about everything that they do. Their sales techniques usually are very good and well practiced and follow up is a big part of their approach. However, they don’t always have the leeway that a business owner has and sometimes that can make the deal. This article will increase awareness for small business.

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Sherryl Perry June 15, 2012 at 6:22 pm

Hi Ann,
I certainly agree with you that small businesses need our support. I have seen so many local businesses not be able to compete with big stores that have the competitive advantage when it comes to being able to purchase in large quantities. Small businesses can build customer loyalty by offering superior customer service and quality.

Thanks for taking the time to join the conversation.
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Richa June 14, 2012 at 10:09 am

The size of business may or may not affect the busying decisions. Some people prefer to go out for big names as they are renowned for quality. Foe me, the size of business doesn’t matter much. Quality. price and services are the main criterion. Every big business was once small. If the small businesses concentrate on the essential stuff, there is no way they cannot compete with big names.

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Sherryl Perry June 15, 2012 at 2:56 pm

Richa, One thing that surprised me about this experience was that I had no idea that this business existed. Thankfully, the owner’s son and daughter are web savvy and they built him a nice presence online. We even had trouble finding their store. My experience should prove to small businesses that it is very important that they have a website that represents them well and that is optimized enough that they can be found through Google.

Thanks for taking the time to join the conversation.
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Jackie
Twitter:
June 14, 2012 at 7:46 am

Hey Sherryl

At the end of the day it comes down to service and the value that’s been provided. Sometimes you can find that in the bigger organizations too (but it is a rareity)

A little while back I was looking for a new fridge and two local businesses both had the same model there was only $20 dollars difference in price, both offered free delivery, but one store couldn’t deliver for 5 days but the other promised next day delivery.

The fridge ended up costing me the $20 more, and took 5 days to get there, but to me that wasn’t the issue. Sometimes you’ll compromise on your criteria if you get better service. Its about how that person makes you feel.

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Sherryl Perry June 15, 2012 at 2:52 pm

That’s a great point Jackie. I always feel better about myself when I purchase from a local business or a small mom and pop shop. I’m willing to pay a little more too. One of the problems that I see is that once the big businesses drive out all the little guys, we have no choice but to buy from them and that’s when they go up on their prices. I believe we all need to do our part to help small businesses compete.
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Jackie
Twitter:
June 15, 2012 at 8:41 pm

Totally in your corner on that Sherryl.
Big business has always used its muscle in the way of buying power to squash the competition, usually the small players are the ones who suffer the most. Although I do beleive its an environment that’s changing.
People are swinging back to small business, they’re tired of being treated like a commodity by the Multi nationals.

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Jessica June 14, 2012 at 3:02 am

Hey Sheryl,

I came across the ” The little guy with a Web presence”,
We should not judge a book by its cover. As I see to it, establishments likes a retro image. It attracts elderly or matured persons.

And to your question, I think small businesses can conduct a yearly show featuring they’re products and in that way maybe, their products can go viral.

Love this article btw,

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Warren June 14, 2012 at 2:35 am

I’m a huge impulse buyer. I buy the strangest stuff at times and catch heck from my wife for it. The only criteria seems to be it has to catch my attention, and I have to think I’m getting a great deal.

Last week I bought a band saw because it was being sold for $50.00 (It looked new and I Googled it and found out it was $149.00 new)
I’ve never used a band saw, and had to Google what to do with it when I got the thing home! LOL

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Sherryl Perry June 15, 2012 at 2:49 pm

That’s funny Warren. Let me guess. Is your wife the type who reads the labels before buying and diligently researches big ticket items before even leaving the house? If so, you’ve sort of described the scenario that goes on here in our household. I would never have purchased carpeting within 24-hours of my husband suggesting it, if it weren’t for his role in the decision. My husband can be a rather impulsive buyer too but he prefers to tell me that he can make up his mind whereas I like to comparison shop and think about it for a while. Together, it works. :)
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Warren June 15, 2012 at 10:30 pm

I’m not sure what she’s doing, but she spends close to five minutes picking out each item on our grocery list. I figure if we bought brand x/size x last time and the time before that it should be a two second grab, no? LOL (We’ve had many a discussion about it, I’ve now started exploring the grocery store while she shops! LOL)

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Susan Oakes
Twitter:
June 13, 2012 at 8:32 pm

Hi Sherryl,

We had a similar experience to you when we needed an air conditioner installed just before Christmas. A smaller place did it in 2 days and 8 weeks later I received a follow up later re my initial inquiry from the larger store. I think there is another way which not all small businesses do and larger business definitely do do and that is keep in touch after the deal is done which can be a missed opportunity.
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Sherryl Perry June 14, 2012 at 9:47 am

Hi Susan,
That’s a great point about the follow-up. It will be interesting to see if I hear back from this company. We talked about having them install a new kitchen floor too. So, a follow-up could definitely benefit them. I did have to call them to authorize payment of the balance and they politely asked if we were satisfied and profusely thanked us. I’d be surprised if I didn’t get something in the mail from them this week.
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Roberta Budvietas,
Twitter:
June 13, 2012 at 5:04 pm

Its the service not the size that really matters and I think the one thing that is becoming clear – people trust people not big boys. Competitive pricing plus excellent service makes a real difference

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Sherryl Perry June 14, 2012 at 9:28 am

Hi Roberta,
Trust is so important and personal service does make us feel special. :) Thanks for weighing in on this!
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Diane
Twitter:
June 13, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Hi Sherryl,
I have an online bricks and mortor business, ie I don’t have a shop front. so my website is my shop front. We offer gifts for delivery throughout my country New Zealand. This is a highly competitive business, but as there are so many keywords that are available, it’s almost overwhelming, however I really enjoy this fantastic challenge.

Sherryl, I like that you mention the “about” page, which I must admit is one of the first places that I look when I’m checking out a prospective customer, competitor or a product that I’m looking to purchase. We have our personal photos on our About Us page, and I believe that people see this and hopefully this builds trust in what we do and that we are “real” people, who are providing this online service.

One key thing that I always keep in mind is to remember that Google loves words, not pictures or images, so I work very hard at finding great keywords that don’t just link to my home page, but that take people deep inside our website.

The second thing that is starting to help my website is that I have a blog on the website, that is a .com not the .co.nz of my existing website. This is an interesting challenge, but I felt that as our customers are worldwide, this would help us to get found more. It appears to be working for us.

The third thing is to be very careful an an ecommerce site not to repeat the words that you use on each page for each product. They need to be unique, different and contain at least 2 keywords. This can be achieved by adding personal testimonials from customers, or product reviews.

Thank you Sherryl for sharing this great post with us.

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Sherryl Perry June 14, 2012 at 9:25 am

Hi Diane,
It’s always good to hear from you. That’s great that your strategy for your business is working well for you. I’ve visited your website before and it’s a great example of an eCommerce site. You are so right about Google and pictures. That’s why I am constantly reminding people to rename their images with meaningful titles and fill out the meta-tag info for alternate text and descriptions. It’s helpful to use titles too. (Although, I don’t use captions here on my site. I definitely would if I were promoting a product.) I think using a personal picture on your about page is a great idea too.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. I’m sure that readers who have (or are building) an eCommerce site will follow your link and check out your site.
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