Here’s how small businesses can compete with big online businesses

Amazon is taking over.

They started with books and they continued with everyday household items. Now they are selling digital content (e.g. movies) and home services (e.g. plumbing).

Because Amazon is a big competitor it has forced other major businesses (e.g. Walmart and Target) to step it up.

And they have.

So, how can your small business (with a small budget) compete with big businesses (with big budgets) online?

You just have to be better. But you have to be better strategically. Here’s how…

Do what the big guys can’t do.

Here’s 5 things the big guys can’t do:

1. They can’t be a leader in one particular category or industry.

Let’s say that you have a sporting goods store. And, let’s say that your particular specialty is fishing. You are known around town as the go-to place for everything related to fishing gear.

Amazon, of course, sells sporting goods…and they sell fishing equipment. Fishing is not their core business.

They cannot personally recommend the best fishing equipment. They cannot offer guidance on how to fish, where the best fishing spots are, or what kind of fishing pole would best suit their customer’s skill level.

The big guys cannot talk on the phone or chat in person with a customer who’s interested in knowing the difference between a spinning reel and a bait-casting reel.

Their customer support staff doesn’t know a thing about fishing.

Those big guys simply can’t be trusted as a fishing expert. However, if this is your industry then you can be trusted as a fishing expert.

2. They can’t provide value other than on price.

Most of the value the big guys offer comes in the form of lower prices.

In all likelihood, you can’t compete on lowest price.

So, how do you compete? Make people feel good about buying from you.

People purchase based on emotion. Make people feel good about their decision to buy from you than from online.

Demonstrate to your customers why they should buy from you over those other guys.

There’s three things customers want (other than the lowest price):

a) Customers want a quality product. Demonstrate why yours is the superior product — even at a higher price.

b) Customers want great service. Show how you will be there for them when they have questions.

c) Customers want assurance. They want to know that the product they’re buying is right for them. Show them that you care about them.

This is all value. You are providing value in ways other than being the cheapest.

3. They can’t provide great customer service (the way you can).

Let’s face it, the big guys cannot provide great customer service. They run a high volume, low margin business. And this low margin comes at a price.

Top notch customer service is not included.

However, this is one area where you can stand out. People buy from those they know, like, and trust.

So, how do you be known for great customer service? By demonstrating great customer service — before, during, and after the sale.

Once your customers have experienced you they will now know you, like you, and trust you.

4. They can’t be anything other than a faceless corporation.

We know two things:

a) People buy from people they know, like, and trust.


b) They make purchases based on emotion.

One way to compete with the big guys is to make it personal by putting a face on your business.

Then, all of a sudden, your business becomes real — with a real person running it who has a real life and family.

To the average customer, Amazon and Walmart are faceless corporations. You are not.

Take advantage of that.

Tell your customers your story — how you got into the business, why you care so deeply about serving your customers, and why you love your product or service.

You will become real and personal. People will start to feel like they know you, like you, and can trust you.

This is something the big guys can’t do.

5. They can’t create a special experience.

To be fair, some of the big guys’ experiences are actually quite nice. Finding the product on their site, checking out, and having it delivered quickly to your door is actually a pretty good experience. That’s how they got so so big in the first place.

However, knowing this — how can you make your experience special?

Not just different. Not just unique. Not just better. Special.

At the end of the day, you want to be known for something special — what is it?

You have to give your customers a reason to choose you over your competition. Make that reason special and your customers will love you.

Adam Lean is the founder of The CFO Project. We fix and grow small businesses.

We provide you with a CFO who will guide you through a complete system designed to fix and grow your business.

Find out more at

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