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For a successful business, you need a viable business idea, the skills to make it work and the funding. Discover whether your idea has what it takes.

Forming your business correctly is essential to ensure you are protected and you comply with the rules. Learn how to set up your business.

It is likely you will need funding to start your business unless you have your own money. Discover some of the main sources of start up funding.

Businesses and individuals must account for and pay various taxes. Understand your tax obligations and how to file, account and pay any taxes you owe.

Businesses are required to comply with a wide range of business laws. We introduce the main rules and regulations you must comply with.

Learn why business planning is an essential exercise if your business is to start and grow successfully, attract funding or target new markets.

Marketing matters. It drives sales and helps promote your brand and products. Discover how to market your business and reach your target customers.

Some businesses need a high street location whilst others can be run from home. Understand the key factors from cost to location, size to security.

Your employees can your biggest asset. They can also be your biggest challenge. We explain how to recruitment and manage staff successfully.

It is likely your business could not function without some form of IT. Learn how to specify, buy, maintain and secure your business IT.

Few businesses manage the leap from start up to high-growth business. Learn what it takes to scale up and take your business to the next level.

How to punch above your weight as a small business

Your business provides tremendous value, a personal service and everyone that works with you leaves happy. And yet, despite you knowing you're the better fit, a prospective client has chosen to opt for a bigger competitor. Frustrating.

It comes down to that old saying, 'nobody ever got fired for buying IBM'. Buying from established firms with a good reputation is a safe choice, if not always the right one. It appears we're a risk-averse bunch - unless there is a compelling reason to switch, the majority of prefer to go with the easiest option.

So what does it take to get someone to choose your small firm above a bigger competitor?

Use the fear of losing out

Whether it's trying to persuade the kids to eat their greens, or convince a prospect to sign on the dotted line, we're used to selling the upsides. We are brought up believing that positivity and incentives are the routes to persuasion.

Yet research by Daniel Kahneman showed decision makers were up to three times more likely to act in response to a threat of loss than they were to the opportunity of gain.

So, actually, what we need to do is convince people that staying the same is unsafe. Rather than just running through the usual features and benefits, you need to show your potential clients the consequences of their current, risk-strewn path and enlighten them on the value of change.

If you face a steep challenge against large competitors, don't just talk about the advantages of being a small business. Warn prospects about the dangers of working with big firms. Will they be given truly personal service? Will they be given a direct contact to speak to, whenever they need to? Will they be made to feel like number one?

Being the cheapest doesn't win business

Who goes out focusing on buying the cheapest car, the cheapest food, or cheapest clothes?

Research shows that price is the main consideration in less than half of business purchases. No matter what product or service you provide, price is not the most important factor - it's value.

Despite this, smaller businesses often charge less, or are too open to negotiation, because they don't price themselves based on the value they provide. In fact, perhaps counter-intuitively, if you price yourself too low, you risk being rejected altogether - potential buyers simply won't believe you can provide the same level of service as your more expensive rivals.

Ultimately, your customers want you to be in business next year so you can continue to support them. Smaller businesses have the advantages of being flexible, personable and quick to react.

Get the following basics right, and you can charge more:

  • build a strong, empathetic relationship with your clients
  • take an interest in their goals and innovate to help them get better value
  • focus on removing barriers to make interaction easy
  • continuously meet and exceed expectations
  • be proactive about issue management and fix problems at source

The art of looking big

A survey by Salesforce shows that 59% of B2B buyers would rather stick to online research than speak to a salesperson. That means you may not get the opportunity to persuade prospects that you're the right choice, as the decision has already been made.

The good news is this is a great opportunity for small businesses. The internet is a great leveller, with a well thought out website helping you to look far bigger than you are - the foot in the door to give you a chance of getting that sales enquiry.

So how do you convert those online researchers? With a quick Google search, decision makers are able to learn more about you than ever before. You therefore have a limited time to build trust and convince researchers that they should use you - take note of the statistic that 84% of people trust online reviews as much as they do a recommendation from a friend.

Continuity is important here - people should be able to build a picture of your business searching online reviews, reading case studies on your website, and reading positive things on your social media accounts. In other words, don't undermine your fantastic reviews on Trustpilot when you have a Facebook page that hasn't been updated for two years.

If buyers are risk-averse, you've just waved a flag screaming "Hey, we're so small we don't even have the resources to update our Facebook, let alone serve our customers!"

Technology has further enabled small businesses to punch above their weight. Your big company feel could be undermined if someone then goes to pick up the phone, only to get your voicemail. There are various live chat, call answering and virtual assistant services out there to give a greater perception of size whilst, more importantly, ensuring you also never miss an all-important sales opportunity.

In an extremely competitive environment, you can't afford to have a single chink in your armour. If you do, this opens the opportunity for the big, ‘safe' competitor. Focus on your strengths - and their weaknesses - to become a small business success.

Sponsored post. Copyright © 2018 Clare Runham, owner of Miss MPS

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