David vs. Goliath: How Smaller Businesses Can Beat Bigger Companies in Their Marketing Efforts

For owners of small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), trying to compete with much larger companies in the marketing arena can be a daunting — and even intimidating — endeavor. After all, the bigger, more established brands have much more sizeable advertising budgets, considerably larger marketing teams and outsized name recognition.

But in many ways, the internet has a way of leveling the playing field — especially in the world of online marketing. For small businesses, digital marketing offers plenty of proven ways to stand out from the heavyweights, and often even win a significant portion of the customers that you are competing with those heavyweights to capture. Consider these eight SMB advertising tactics that smaller businesses can tap into to increase their online visibility and win customers away from even their most colossal competitors:

1. Hone in on the ‘right’ customers

Time and money are often especially precious for smaller businesses, so it’s critical not to spend too much of either chasing the wrong consumers. Before investing large portions of your advertising budget and manpower in a marketing campaign, be sure to do the homework needed to understand your competition and to identify your business’s ideal target demographic. Key steps here include creating buyer personas, doing competitive analysis & tracking and performing audience research, targeting & acquisition.

2. Spotlight your personalized service …

Bigger doesn’t always mean better, and this can be especially true when it comes to customer service. (Case in point: Ever looked for help in that cavernous big-box hardware store? Conversely, ever had trouble finding the help you need in your small, locally owned hardware store?) Go the extra mile to make sure your customers are well-served and satisfied — which can be a much easier undertaking when pursued on a smaller scale. And don’t be afraid to let consumers know about your business’s commitment to providing high levels of service.

3. … and whatever else sets your business apart

Beyond great service, what else sets your small business apart from the competition, both large and small? Whatever your unique value proposition (UVP) may be, whether it’s your product, your service, an ethical commitment or something else, don’t hesitate to share it with consumers via your advertising and other messaging. A couple places where including mention of your business’s differentiators can be especially effective are in your advertising copy and in your meta descriptions. Those let consumers know what’s on your web pages when they see them show up on a search engine results page (SERP).

4. Lean on your local roots

Many of today’s consumers understand the importance of a strong local economy, and they are therefore willing to go out of their way to buy from or work with a locally owned company. And more often than not, small- to medium-sized businesses have much stronger local connections than bigger (often national) companies do. So, when putting together your SMB’s ad copy and other marketing messages, stressing your local connections can be one sure way to stand out and attract more area customers. Further, to ensure that area consumers can find your business when they search for you or your offerings, having a clearly defined local SEO strategy is essential.

5. Kick up your keyword strategy

When it comes to keyword targeting, long-tail keywords (which include lengthier, more specific search phrases) tend to be significantly less competitive. Therefore, they are less expensive to set your sights on — than shorter, broader keywords. Further, because consumers who use longer, more-specific search queries tend to have a better idea of exactly what they’re looking for, these searches also often have a higher chance of conversion. And together, both of these factors give SMBs a big opportunity to excel vs. larger competitors in keyword targeting by building their search strategy — both organic and paid — around the right long-tail keywords. Take the time to research, compose and implement a list of long-tail keywords for which your business is a perfect fit when consumers search for them. By doing so, your business can climb in the search rankings for these terms — and lure more business away from your largest competitors. (Bonus tip: Some of the top tools for keyword research include Google Keyword Planner, Google Trends and Semrush.)

6. Enhance your analytics …

Implementing the keyword and SEO strategies mentioned above are great ways to get off on the right foot with your digital marketing efforts. But elevating them to their peak levels of effectiveness usually involves a trial-and-error process — one that is much more powerful when driven by data. On this front, a range of analytics tools is available to help your business capture important data about where your customers are coming from, what they’re doing on your website, etc. (Some of the leading options here can be found in this Brandon blog article.)  

7. … and follow the data

Once you’ve harnessed valuable data about your customers and learned more about which of your tactics are working and which are not, use all of this information to adjust and optimize. Even if the tweaks are small and gradual, over time you should be able to dial in more effective strategies, attract more customers and increase your conversion rates.

8. Seize your size advantage

Because they often have fewer decision-makers and require fewer rounds of approval across various departments, smaller businesses are often significantly more agile than larger companies. And as a result, they can typically make and act on decisions much more quickly than their larger counterparts — putting them in a good position to swiftly respond to any new and/or fast-developing trends they might discover via their analytics and data. Use this to your advantage to adjust your keyword and content tactics on the fly, as doing so could help you beat your larger competitors to the punch.

Could your small business use the assistance of an expert team of marketers to help you get a leg up on the competition? As a fully integrated marketing firm, Brandon can cover the full spectrum of your brand’s marketing needs, including digital marketing for small business, media, creative, SEO, analytics, public relations, social media, email marketing, brand strategy, web design, e-commerce and more. To learn how you can put our team of social media professionals to work for your business, contact us today.