4 Ways Mom and Pop Businesses Can Outshine Their Bigger Competitors

March 29 is National Mom and Pop Business Owners Day—a day to celebrate the value that family-owned small businesses bring to their communities. These days, Mom and Pop businesses face many challenges as they compete against larger retailers and service providers with expansive budgets. But Mom and Pops have some strengths bigger companies don't. By leveraging them, they cannot only compete successfully but also excel.

Here are 4 advantages small businesses have over big businesses:

First-name Basis

This brings to my mind some lyrics from the theme song for the television show, “Cheers.”

“Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name…”

I think we all can relate to how wonderful it feels when we walk into businesses where the owners or staff call us by name and make us feel valued.

Unlike many large corporations, mom and pop businesses have opportunities to really get to know their customers—and vice versa. It's not just business; it becomes personal as small business owners and their employees develop friendships with the people within their communities. Customers that know and like the people running a business will naturally be more inclined to visit again and again.

How can you make the most of this strength? Make an effort to learn about your customers. Do your best to commit to memory their preferences and key bits of information they give you about what's happening in their world. So, the next time they stop by your business, you can deliver personalized service and show you care by asking them about how their child’s school play went or what adventures they’ve had with their new puppy. Acknowledging your customers as individuals builds trust and goodwill—and can lead to referrals.

Nimble and Flexible

Large corporations often have a lot of red tape and tiers of buy-in to get through before launching new products or services and making improvements in answer to customer feedback. In contrast, with their simple management structure that allows for fast approval, mom and pop businesses can respond to market demand and customer needs more quickly.

And with no messy hierarchy and bureaucracy to navigate, mom and pop businesses can more adeptly cater to special requests from customers and offer more than customers are expecting. With their quick decision-making capabilities, mom and pop businesses are well positioned to nurture customer loyalty, earn repeat business and gain referrals.

How can you make the most of this strength? Treat every buyer interaction as an opportunity to gain valuable knowledge, improve your offerings and enhance the customer experience. Critical to the process is keeping a close eye on trends in your industry and what competitors are offering. Also, seek to learn—and closely listen to—what your customers like and dislike about your products and services. Industry blogs, joining your local chamber of commerce, staying tuned into your competitors’ social media accounts and issuing customer surveys can help you recognize the changes you should consider acting on.

Also, listen to your customers' needs and go above and beyond to deliver personalized service. If you have employees, empower them to make decisions to do a little something extra when a prime opportunity for building customer loyalty presents itself. For example, think of the goodwill a mom and pop coffee shop might generate by giving its employees the authority to extend an occasional on-the-house cup of Joe to busy professionals who visit your location before work every morning.

Part of the Community

Mom and pop business owners have many opportunities to demonstrate their sense of social responsibility in supporting causes within their communities. And with 55 percent of consumers willing to pay more for products from socially responsible companies, giving back can have a direct result on a small business’s bottom line.

How can you make the most of this strength? As someone who lives and works within your local community, seek to be a part of making life better for those in need in your area. Keep a pulse on the causes that matter to your customers. Coat and food drives at your location not only serve a social need, but they also make your store a destination for new customers. You might also consider donating a portion of your profits for a limited time to a chosen charity. Other ideas include sponsoring a charitable event or a local sports teams. And giving your time to lend a hand at a nonprofit event can give the organization some much-needed assistance while strengthening your business’s reputation.

Small and Local

“Shop Small” and “shop local” have become prominent mantras across the United States, raising awareness of small businesses' contributions to their local communities. Mom and pop businesses often provide unique artisanal products and offer one-of-a-kind experiences that draw visitors from other locations. Also, family-owned businesses account for 64 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product and 78 percent of new jobs created each year. Cognizant of small businesses’ impact on the local economy, people have a renewed interest in doing their part to keep their dollars in the local community.

How to make the most of this strength: The American Express® Small Business Saturday website offers many tips and tools for promoting your local business year round. It also provides ideas for how you can use Small Business Saturday (which falls on the Saturday after Black Friday) to boost customer motivation to buy from local businesses as the holidays arrive. You can also leverage the Shop Small® movement by partnering with other local mom and pop shops in your community. By recommending each other to customers and cross-promoting each other’s products and services, you can all gain more exposure and make more revenue.

Need help with Your Mom and Pop Business?

SCORE mentors have experience in all aspects of starting and running a business, and mom and pop business owners anywhere throughout the United States can take advantage of their insight and guidance.

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