At first, it was big box chain stores that took over the country and flushed small businesses out. Then it was the internet, which led to the formation of powerful and convenient ecommerce sites that caused even more local businesses to close up. But in 2018 and beyond, there’s still something to be said for running a small, local business that meets a specific customer need.
You could even say it’s advantageous.
5 Advantages of Being Small and Local
You may think the heyday of small, local businesses has come and gone, but that’s not necessarily true. We live in an age of technology, which means you have plenty of cost-effective resources available at your fingertips. You simply have to learn how to use them. You also have the following advantages going for you:
1. Local Presence
People trust things that are local. For better or worse, there’s this idea that your immediate surroundings are more trustworthy and real than something 2,000 miles away. When you’re local, you’re part of the fabric of the community. People want to support you because they want to see you be successful. Whether overtly or subconsciously, that’s how people think.
2. Connection With the Community
Online businesses often talk about establishing “tribes,” or groups of loyal followers, but nothing replaces the connection small businesses have with their local communities. Just ask a company that has firsthand experience with this.
“We’ve been in business for nearly 150 years, which is unheard of in today’s marketplace,” Pioneer Music Company points out. “What we’ve found is that it’s our commitment to investing in the local community and providing our customers with transparency, honesty, and exceptional customer service that really sets us apart from the big box stores that have emerged over the last 30 to 40 years.”
There’s certainly some effort required here. Just because you’re local, doesn’t mean you automatically have a strong connection with the community. You have to put in some work, forge relationships, and give back. But when you do, you’ll produce results that nationwide competitors can’t replicate.
3. Face-to-Face Customer Service
There are plenty of online businesses and nationwide brands that offer exceptional customer service. A company like Zappos comes to mind. But no matter how good your call center agents or social media team members are, there’s nothing that can replace face-to-face service between the customer and the brand.
For local businesses, customer service often happens in person. Not only does this reduce the likelihood of misunderstandings, but it also creates a better experience for the consumer. This leads to greater brand loyalty and satisfaction.
There’s a sense of reliability that comes with being small and local. Not only are you physically there for your customers, but you also have the reputation of meeting needs when others can’t.
Take a small hardware store as an example. While a customer can order the same products online at a lower price, they have to wait two or three days (perhaps longer) to have it shipped to their home. The local store, on the other hand, already has it in stock and can set it aside for the customer so that it’s ready for pickup when they arrive. It’s this reputation for reliability that makes a big difference.
There’s an allure to being big, but don’t discount one of the more important advantages to being small: flexibility.
As entrepreneur Lis Stedman writes, “You are way more flexible and able to make the changes necessary to survive than a big outfit. Think speedboat versus the Titanic – while they are still wondering if they can steer around that big block of ice, you’ve nipped past all the obstacles.”
In practical terms, this means you have the ability to make changes in real-time. Whereas a large business has to jump through bureaucratic approval processes, you can make a change as soon as you identify a need, problem, or opportunity.
Bigger Isn’t Always Better
There are times when it pays to be big, but don’t get so caught up in the pursuit of gargantuan numbers that you lose sight of the advantages that come with being small and local. Bigger isn’t always better, and smaller often means more consistent results.
Stick to a plan, leverage the advantages you have, and keep pushing forward.