4 Ways Small Businesses Can Stand Out from the Competition

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Elevating your brand and optimizing customer experiences will make you more competitive and responsive to market changes.

The startup boom continues. After entrepreneurs created 4.3 million new businesses in the U.S. in 2020, they topped that record with a historic high of 5.4 million business applications filed in 2021. Furthermore, new launches keep coming at a rate far above pre-pandemic levels. However, it’s vital to consider the data that shows what comes next. Lending Tree analysis found that 18.4 percent of U.S. private sector businesses fail within one year, and nearly half close after five years.

Small businesses that beat the odds find ways to stand out from the crowd and compete with larger companies with bigger budgets and more human resources. With planning, effort, and a little savvy, new business owners can elevate their brands, increase marketing effectiveness, and create customer experiences that positively influence buying decisions and grow revenue.

"Elevating your brand and optimizing customer experiences will increase your competitiveness, but remember, you also have advantages as a small business."

Here are a few tips to help position your small business for success over the long-term.

  1. It starts with a name.

Before launching, consider your business’s name, including your domain and other branding elements. Once you establish your company name, branding will be more difficult to change. A pre-naming exercise can help you focus on options for a name by answering questions such as:

    • What kind of company are we creating?

    • What differentiates it from competitors?

    • Who will our customers be?

    • What promises will we make to our customers?

      How you respond will provide the framework for your vision statement, which should guide your naming decision. For example, if you’re creating an international company, you might consider words like “global” or “worldwide” in your name or perhaps incorporate a global image in your logo.

The ultimate criteria for your name will be a domain and brand name that rises above the noise, tells a great story, and resonates with your audience.

Regardless of your business model, many customers will learn about your company and engage online. Therefore, your digital storefront is just as important as any physical presence you build – and your business’s domain is the address your customers will use to find you online.

  2. Modernize your domain name strategy.

Many business founders may default to a .com name. However, your preferred name may not be available due to the saturation of websites with the .com top-level domain (TLD). For example, a DomainsBot, Inc. study revealed when people search availability of their preferred two-word domain name, they find an exact match only 13 percent of the time. Moreover, due to this lack of availability, .com names are often long and challenging for consumers to remember, which could decrease web traffic.

Before settling for a domain that doesn’t exactly match your company name or brand, consider opting for a descriptive TLD, such as .photography, .rentals, .cafe, or .theater (there are hundreds to choose from). A descriptive TLD allows you to use both sides of the dot to pick a domain name that communicates what your business does, for example, corner.cafe or pines.theater, with a shorter, more memorable name.

Additionally, a descriptive domain can anchor a successful search engine optimization (SEO) strategy with the most-searched keywords in your space in the URLs, guiding content development for each webpage.

  3. Create an omnichannel customer experience.

As you build both a physical and a digital brand presence, ensure you aren’t creating two disjointed channels. Be careful to represent your brand consistently wherever consumers engage to prevent brand fragmentation. A successful business avoids sending different messages on different channels, reducing the impact your brand makes in your market. For example, a café startup could choose a domain, such as fresh.coffee to go with its business name: Fresh Coffee, Inc. Using a descriptive domain name allows the company to more succinctly communicate who it is and what it does. It also makes the domain easier to remember and share with others.

  4. Look for cobranding partnership opportunities.

Building a solid partner network is a smart way to underpin business success. First, choose partners with missions, business goals, and audiences like yours. Then create a strategy that broadens your partner’s and your reach by introducing cobranded offerings to your audiences.

Some examples of successful cobranding include Pottery Barn and Sherwin-Williams, Starbucks and Spotify, and Levi’s and Pinterest, which create conveniences for consumers and enhance their satisfaction with their purchases.

Accentuate Your Strengths

Elevating your brand and optimizing customer experiences will increase your competitiveness, but remember, you also have advantages as a small business. Your company can be more nimble than enterprises, making decisions and acting more quickly when consumer behaviors or the market changes.

For example, it’s much easier for a small business or startup to create a unified brand and complementary domain than for a large, already-established company. So, just because a coffee or pizza chain in your area can’t easily switch to a .cafe, .coffee, or .pizza TLD, you can use a descriptive domain name to your company’s advantage.

Small companies can also provide in-person service and build authentic customer relationships. You also have deep market knowledge, allowing you to source products and tailor services for your customer base.

Playing up your strengths and incorporating the above tactics into your strategy can help you build a firm foundation for a successful business.

Kimberly Michener, Sr. Director, Brand and Marketing Communications, Identity Digital.

Kimberly Michener, Sr. Director, Brand and Marketing Communications, Identity Digital.

Kim joined Identity Digital in 2021. She heads up brand and marketing communications and was instrumental in spearheading the successful Identity Digital rebrand and consumer campaign launch. Kim brings two decades of marketing experience from both agencies and enterprises in tech and various other industries.

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