Small Business Marketing Strategies for Tackling Big Competitors

One of the great challenges facing small business owners is that they must often battle for customers against larger competitors, who can afford to run more advertising, offer lower prices, and who are better established in the marketplace.

And yet some small business owners do it very successfully. How?

There are some proven marketing strategies to use when competing against larger, more established competitors. These strategies have been used successfully by companies of all sizes to drive sales and carve out a sustainable position in the market. They apply to online commerce and traditional small businesses.

Here are details on two such strategies that you can use as a small business owner to help grow your business when competing with larger competitors:

Take the “Alternative” Position

If you are up against the market leader in your business, shift your market position so you don’t compete directly with them on their turf. Become the “alternative” to the market leader – that is, promote and advertise an aspect of your product/service that the leader simply can’t offer. This is a classic marketing strategy that has been used successfully by small companies and major corporations, because it allows you to compete with the leader in a part of the market where they may not be very strong.

Pepsi couldn’t beat Coke at the cola wars, because Coke was viewed as the original cola drink that had no substitutes. That was fine with Pepsi. It let Coke have that territory, and instead marketed itself as the “Choice of a New Generation”. Its marketing appeal and target audience was young and cool – everything that Coke couldn’t be with their more traditional positioning. Pepsi successfully carved out the number 2 position in the market by becoming the primary alternative to Coke, and made billions in the process.

The rule applies to everything from .com companies to local furniture stores. Survey the competitive landscape in your market and determine how you can position your business as the best alternative to the established market leader. Second place in a given market can be a very nice place to be from a profitability standpoint.

Sell what they don’t have – You!

Many small business owners have found success by building their personal reputations as experts in their field, with significant benefits to their small business. They have become the “public face” for their company.

Some large companies have a “public face”, a person who represents the company in the minds of customers (Richard Branson for Virgin is one). But most don’t. As a small business owner, you can effectively represent yourself as an expert in your area of expertise, and drive awareness for your small business in the process.

One of the most effective ways to build your reputation is through the credibility that comes from publicity and media relations activities.

Here are some guiding principles to working with the media as a small business owner:

View it as a relationship – reporters need story ideas and expert sources – you can offer both when it comes to your area of expertise to create a win-win situation

Pitch story ideas about what’s new and what’s changing – the media likes to break news about emerging trends, either in your industry or related to your experience as a small business owner

Strive for repeat business – once a reporter has identified you as a good source of information on a topic, they will keep coming back to you – so ensure that early in your relationship you are available to them and willing to offer help in getting information for them to pull a story together

Having a single person leading the charge to build media relationships and run the company makes it easier to transfer the goodwill that you achieve in the media over to your business activities. This doesn’t work nearly as well for larger companies, so leverage this competitive advantage and take a personal approach to building your business through publicity.

You Can Compete!

Small business marketing is all about leveraging the built-in advantages of being a small enterprise in the battle against larger competition for customers and sales. Establishing your business as an alternative to the market leader in your business, and building personal credibility that can be transferred to your small business are just two strategies that you can implement to help your small business succeed against bigger competitors.

How I Setup My Business Bank Accounts

Breaking down the process into small individual tasks

The small tasks involved in starting a new business can often times add up to become a seemingly overwhelming process when looked at in their entirety. It is important to remember that most of these tasks really are small, and looking at them as such makes things seem a lot easier. In this article I will focus on what I looked at in my situation in order to setup my business banking accounts.

Prior to setting up my banking accounts

To get to this point I had to complete a series of other small tasks in order to have everything ready for setting up my business banking accounts. This included setting up my business address, completing my limited liability company paperwork and receiving my LLC paperwork back from my state’s secretary of state office, and applying for and receiving my Federal Employer Identification Number from the IRS.

Since at this point in my business creation I do not have any real income being generated, I needed to keep all my initial expenses as low as possible. In this case it means finding a business banking structure that will not have excessive fees and preferably have no fees at all. The last thing I want right now is to spend money setting up my business on things like recurring unnecessary banking fees.

What I needed in a business banking account

I started out with a little research using the internet on what was required to setup business banking accounts. There is quite a lot of information available which can be easily found, so I will just document my steps in the decisions I made for my particular setup. There were a few things besides low monthly fees that I wanted from by business banking account.

1. A local convenient branch location

2. A national chain with many locations

3. A good on-line banking service

4. The ability to add on a multitude of business services down the road

5. Low or no recurring monthly business banking service charges

A convenient branch location

The good news is that I was able to find all of these things in my community. I needed a local convenient branch location because I do not want to have to travel all over the place to perform my banking tasks. This is a matter of time-management for me, and in the past I have chosen poorly with personal bank accounts because I thought I would do most everything on-line and not really need something close or more convenient. While I do perform most of my personal banking on-line, I still find myself wishing I had chosen a closer bank when there are times I needed to physically go to the bank. Depending on the types of deposits I will need to make, I envision myself needing to physically go to my business bank in the future much more than I need to for my personal banking needs.

A national chain with many locations

I wanted to choose a national bank with many branch offices because if I decide to personally relocate or setup a business in another location, the chances of having a local branch of the same bank is much more likely with a larger national financial institution. This would mean I would be able to keep the existing accounts with the same bank and not have the hassle of starting over with new accounts at a different bank in order to maintain the same convenience of having a close branch location.

A good on-line banking service

Having a very good on-line banking service is definitely one of the major considerations I had in choosing my bank. In today’s day and age, I want and expect very good on-line banking services including on-line bill pay, statements, account funding transfers, consolidation of all accounts into a centralized site for easy viewing, and most importantly built in functionality to download my accounts easily into financial software such as Quicken or Quickbooks.

The ability to add on a multitude of business services down the road

The ability to add additional business banking services or having a business bank which is easily scalable was also a consideration I had concerning the bank I would choose. This is an area which was not the highest priority at this time because I figured that if the bank I chose met the other qualifications then they would also have the ability to easily scale my business accounts to meet the needs of my business down the road. Merchant services and other business financial services would be some of the things I envision needing in the future.

Low or no recurring monthly business banking service charges

Last on my list would be one of the most important considerations I was having at this point early in my business setup. Low or no recurring monthly business banking service charges with the need to only maintain a low balance in my business banking accounts is a must at this time. I would not be opening my accounts with a lot of money, and I did not want what money I was depositing into my accounts to be eaten away at by service fees. I needed an account that would allow me to have a low minimum balance at the same time avoiding as many fees as I could. Many banks have accounts with no minimum balance requirements and no monthly fees for personal banking accounts, but this is usually not the case with many business banking accounts.

So how did I do?

I ended up opening a business banking account with Chase Bank. They had a convenient branch location close to my home and right across the street from my business UPS Store mailbox, which incidentally is my official business address at this point (See my article on Getting My Business Address.) They met my listed criteria for convenience, and also are a well recognized national financial institution with many branch offices throughout the nation. This means the likelihood of finding another branch close to me if I chose to relocate is much greater. They have a very rich on-line banking service that met all of my requirements for on-line banking abilities, and easily integrated with my Quicken software. They offered many business financial services which were available to me, but at this time I do not require them. It is nice to know I can get these services in the future with them. Most importantly, they were able to structure my accounts so that I do not have any monthly service fees or minimum balance requirements, NONE!

How did I avoid fees?

They had a program where I could open a business classic checking account which would normally have fees unless I maintained an account balance that was more than I would have been maintaining. I could avoid the fees by applying for a business credit card account and linking it to my business checking account. As long as I made at least one transaction a month on the business credit card account then I would not have any business checking account fees. I know the question many will be asking. What about the business credit card fees? Well I made sure the business credit card did not have any annual fees or other hidden fees also. It did not. Believe me I asked many times. There were also other benefits to having a business credit card which initially I did not place as much value on. These benefits included establishing a credit rating for my business which was independent of my personal credit history. This is important because in the future, the business may one day be able to obtain loans without personal liability of the loans by me for the business. Another benefit of having a business credit card is better protection for on-line purchases and fraud when using a credit card versus using a debit card on-line.

Making sure I have at least one transaction a month on my business credit card was easy enough. I simply set-up my internet hosting provider to use my business credit card for the monthly hosting fee of the business. This ensures that even if I choose to use my checking account checks or debit card, which was also free of fees, I will always have at least one charge on the credit card to meet the bank’s requirements for waving all of my business accounts’ service charges. Not a bad deal in my opinion.

What paperwork did I need to setup my accounts?

First I have to say the customer service for setting up my business banking accounts was top notch! I just walked in to the branch office without any appointment and a representative from the business banking department met with me immediately. I made it clear from the beginning that I was small-time when it came to my business at this point. They still treated me like I was a larger business. They took the time to explain everything and answered my many questions. I was approved on the spot for a business credit card with a very nice limit. I plan to never even carry a balance on the card, but it was nice to see I qualified for a respectable line of business credit.

All I needed to set-up my accounts were my personal identification, the employer identification number I received from the IRS, the certificate of filing from the Office of the Secretary of State from my state, and my LLC operating agreement. All of these documents, except for the personal identification of course, were part of the LLC package I received when I filed for my LLC using LegalZoom.com. Everything was in order and I had everything with me to complete the task without having to make any additional trips to the bank for further documentation.

Conclusion

By breaking down the tasks involved in setting up a business, you can decrease the seemingly complicated event by making it merely a series of small uncomplicated steps. In this step of setting up my business banking accounts, I knew what I wanted to accomplish and what I needed before I ever walked into a bank. By having my paperwork in order and by doing a little homework before hand, I was able to complete this task without it being a headache or a frustrating event.

Best Business Bank Account

Most people that have a business need a business bank account. You may be wondering with all the choices between banks which account is best for you. Some offer services that you need while other services are only “nice to have”, you may be looking for a free business checking account or a full service operating line of credit.

Regardless of what type of account you are looking for we know fore sure that banks love small businesses. Just look at the kinds of offers they have

  • Free for the first year
  • 0 rate APR on credit transfers
  • Free checking account

The reason many of these offers are only introductory offers is because banks are aware that if a small business owner begins working with 1 bank then they are unlikely to switch when they begin to grow. Even IBM had to open a business bank account when it was very small!

what bank account will be best for you, consider…

  1. Are you always carrying a positive balance. If you are always going to be carrying a positive balance than look for banks where you will be able to get a high interest rate on your deposit
  2. Are you often requiring a line of credit to make payroll? If this is the case look into accounts which have the lowest interest rate and no overdraft penalty.
  3. If you make a lot of cash withdrawals be sure to drive around your area and identify where the bank machines are for that bank.
  4. Online banking is becoming a default free option on most business banks but make sure that the bank you are going with offers a free online banking option as this is the best way to keep your costs down.
  5. Business advice – Some banks pride themselves on being partners in your business and will offer free business consultation. Depending on you and your business this may be useful. However, if you run a high tech niche business don’t expect your banker to be able to help forecast cash flow demand through product development. Don’t forget they work for the bank!
  6. Most likely you will want a credit card for your business and it makes sense to attach it to your business bank account. Make sure to understand the terms of the credit card and take that into consideration when selecting a bank. Some banks will give credit cards terrible terms and conditions because they know the entrepreneur will be putting more emphasis on the bank account compared to the credit card.

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