Chain stores seem to be everywhere. You use their names every day, and it can seem like there’s no way to compete with brands like Nike, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook or IKEA. But you can compete…just by acting like a local company.
As a small, local cosmetics company you might not have the same marketing budget as companies like Nivea or Dove. However, you can compete when it comes to personality, local visibility, product knowledge, and relevant advertising. This is your territory!
There are many local opportunities that big companies can’t jump into. That creates some perfect marketing spaces for you as a local entrepreneur.
Compete where you’re strong
Chain stores have their strengths and so do you. Those strengths are probably different. So make sure you compete in the areas where you are strongest.
Chain stores: one size fits all
- The same offer anywhere
- Big marketing budget
- Considerable reach
- Needs many customers to keep growing
- Generic service and product
Large companies are often slow to move. Any decision they make is amplified to a large number of customers. They use centralized processes to make the biggest impact with the least effort.
Local companies: unique to the area
- You only get this offer here
- Small marketing budget
- Not much reach
- Needs fewer customers to keep growing
- Personalized service and product
As a small local business, you can sell unique local products and services that fit your area. You can afford to invest in more personal connections and better quality. By adjusting your marketing you can make your company a household name that means a lot more to your customers than a chain store.
7 ways small companies can compete with large chains
We have listed 7 ways to do local marketing for your small company. Each method will help you create better positioning and make your company stronger in areas where chain stores are generally weak.
1. Sell a local product with a unique story to local customers
Amazon and other international giants have a lot of success selling commodity goods: anyone can buy them anywhere. As a local company, you can compete with large chains by offering unique goods instead.
Every supermarket sells bread. Usually, every one of their stores offers the same selection of centrally-produced bread. As a local baker, you can do better! Work with ingredients from local farmers and investigate recipes for typical regional bread. You may even partner up with your local historical museum to offer a tasting of bread that was eaten in your region in the Middle Ages.
If you run a store for children’s clothing, you can put clothing from local brands on your shelves. As a taxi driver, you can pick more scenic routes and use your local knowledge to drop customers off in the most convenient place. Mention these unique details in product descriptions on your site, and customers will be more likely to make a purchase.
What makes it work?
Commodity goods serve a purpose, but they’re often bland. By offering a specifically local product you give customers an additional reason to buy from you. That focus on a local product, with a real local story to tell, is something that major corporations just can’t copy.
For example, any supermarket sells honey. In selected supermarkets in Hamburg, Germany, customers can find honey produced by bees in their own neighborhood. The urban beekeeper selling this local honey labeled each variety with the name of the area where his bees gather pollen and nectar.
2. Respond to local news
Large chains prefer standard processes that they can scale up and use anywhere. They might set up a marketing campaign for the Super Bowl or a national holiday, but they typically won’t respond to roadworks in your area or the local marathon. You can!
Take a look at these examples:
- Two pandas are born in your local zoo. So in your local bakery, you offer a 2 for 1 sale on cookies with black and white frosting.
- After renovations, the swimming pool in your city finally reopens. So you put a big sign up reminding everyone that your store sells great swimwear for kids.
- Can you see Amazon taking any of these opportunities? They don’t even know these things are happening! They’re certainly not in a position to respond to any of it. But you are.
What makes it work?
Local news influences the daily lives of people in your region. As a company you can acknowledge that: connect your business to positive news or offer a solution to local problems. In doing so you also give customers a reason to talk about your company and see that you’re a part of the community.
3. Offer a different experience
What big chain stores can’t offer is the service and knowledge of a local company. Most employees in national supermarkets are hired to sell products, not to make them. They can slice a loaf of bread for you, but they don’t know how to bake one. As a local baker, you do, and can explain the process in great detail!
In fact, you can talk about which flours are used and can recommend types of bread that are better for allergies. You can give guided bakery tours, offer workshops to customers or provide an interesting day in a bakery for kids during summer vacation. Parents and kids will love it!
In a children’s clothing store you can set up an event where parents can see the new collection and focus on trying on clothes. That’s a big advantage that major online retailers can’t offer, with the high costs for many returned products as a result.
What makes it work?
By adding to the experience, you make your product more than a commodity. You can even offer special local delivery options that make the transaction more unique. This gives customers a good reason to buy a special product from you instead of a generic product from a random company.
And by being a little different you also create an experience worth talking about, so customers are more likely to mention your company to others. Anyone can buy flour from the supermarket. But if you go and get it from a local mill, you end up talking about your experience.
4. Make it personal
How often do you see Bill Gates in your local shopping center? What about Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos or Tim Cook? Do they ever call to discuss business with you? You’re using their products, but you may never speak to anyone from the company.
As a local business, you have the opportunity to become a familiar face that people connect to your company. Show your customers a human side: have a little chat with them, offer a glass of water on a hot day, ask them how they liked the new sourdough recipe. None of this takes time, money or effort, but it does show customers a warm and welcoming face that anonymous chain stores don’t provide.
What makes it work?
Most people like to feel connected to other people. But those connections don’t just magically appear. By going out and approaching people, you start building that connection. For best results, show interest in them instead of just pushing a sale.
There is, of course, a hidden bonus with this approach: when you spend your day being nice and connecting with people, they usually give that kindness right back to you. It makes life, in general, a lot nicer for everyone!
5. Use local keywords
Your bakery in New York doesn’t need to show up to someone googling “bakery” in Toronto. You want Google to understand that. And Google does! For companies with a physical location, Google gives local companies priority in local search results. So people in Toronto see bakeries from Toronto and people in New York see bakeries from New York.
Try to think of what customers might search. In a large city, it might be smart to mention your neighborhood as well as your exact address. “Bakery in Heartland Village, Staten Island” is much more precise than “Bakery in New York”.
It’s tough for big companies to use this strategy because by default they aren’t connected to one specific region. Google’s algorithm will only show them if they have an office or a store in a city. Including local keywords on their websites is equally challenging: their site needs to work for every region.
Working with such local keywords is part of your local SEO. We have listed a number of best practices for local SEO in this article.
What makes it work?
Local keywords can help people in the right area to find your website. Once they reach your site, make sure to highlight the value of visiting your company. You can use Jimdo’s Business Listings to have Google and other platforms always show the right address and opening hours so customers know exactly where and when to reach you.
6. Advertise locally
Does your area have a local newspaper? A local TV station? Large companies want to reach as many people as they can, with the least possible effort. They usually don’t invest in smaller news outlets, because those only help them grow in a small area.
That leaves you with an option. Local advertising reaches an audience that is perfect for your company: people in your local area. And without large companies to compete with, the ad prices are usually very affordable.
Don’t forget: you can buy online advertisements on the websites of these local newspapers and TV stations. Or try local advertising on Facebook: depending on your area it can be as cheap as $ 25 to reach thousands of customers in your local area.
What makes it work?
Advertising can be targeted: you get to choose which people you want to reach. A smart choice of local channels and target groups means you reach the right audience without having to compete with large companies.
An ad campaign during the Superbowl would reach millions of people that are not your audience. Let the giants spend their money there. You get much more relevant reach for your money by advertising locally.
7. Sponsor locals sports or events
Sponsorships are a nice way to show your company to an audience of potential customers. A local children’s soccer tournament brings a lot of parents together. So if you sell children’s clothing, why not sponsor the event in return for a small booth? The event organizers will be happy about the sponsorship and you get the attention of potential customers.
Large companies won’t invest much time in local events. It’s not efficient for them: to make an impact they would need to work out deals with hundreds of different event organizers. For a local company, it might be enough to cooperate with 3 or 4 event organizers during the year.
Here are a few more ideas:
- Let a local networking event take place in your office
- Build the stage for a local play
- Provide a great lunch for a vegan lifestyle event
- Supply a local wedding fashion store with regular fresh flowers
- Sponsor a local sports team
Sponsorship does not always need to cost you money. In many cases, your time, effort or some of your products will be highly appreciated. Donating products is especially useful: it’s like giving out a free demo to a large audience.
What makes it work?
Sponsoring a local event connects your company to the values and the audience of the event. It helps you influence how people see your company. You can reach a mix of new and existing customers and grow your brand awareness.
Large, international chain stores won’t go away. And you don’t have to either. There are plenty of opportunities to be successful, not despite, but because you run a local company.
You don’t have to feel small compared to larger companies. As a small, local company you offer a different product and a different experience. You don’t need to act like Amazon if you are not Amazon. Instead, embrace the local nature of your company and use it as the foundation for your success.