Playbook

5 Ways to Beat the Big Brands in the Holiday Season

If you run your own small business, you know how hard it can be to compete with the big brands in your industry. After all, they have deep pockets and big marketing budgets, so they always seem to get the best promotions and the most attention from consumers. But don’t give up hope! Here are five ways you can beat the big brands and stay ahead of the competition this holiday season.

1) Research

Before launching your holiday marketing strategy, conduct some research. It’s likely that companies with bigger budgets are spending more on email campaigns, TV ads, and radio spots. Find out what they’re doing, and why it works for them — and try to incorporate it into your own campaign. Keep these 3 things in mind 1) What is their goal? 2) How much money do they have? 3) What message is being portrayed? By understanding how a big brand operates, you can compete against them better.

2) Advertise

If your company is a small business, you can use advertising as a major selling point — while it’s true that big brands have more money for ads, many consumers are swayed by advertising from smaller brands. If your business is strong enough and you can demonstrate that you offer a high-quality product or service, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t promote yourself during busy shopping times like Christmas. Get creative with marketing campaigns to grab shoppers’ attention! And don’t be afraid to share promos and coupons on social media; research has found that Facebook posts with coupon codes lead to an average conversion rate of 30 percent. Better yet, if you make sure your promotions aren’t too time-sensitive (for example, Get 25% off on all purchases over $100 until December 31st!), people can purchase when they want without feeling pressured by a limited time frame.

3) Market Smartly

To compete with big brands, small businesses should capitalize on all possible marketing channels. Direct mail, online advertising, TV ads, social media; are some of your best weapons. Don’t give up if you’re not seeing results right away — it can take time for some marketing strategies to show results. Another great way to stand out from competitors is through loyalty and rewards programs (especially those that don’t cost too much to launch). Even something as simple as sending out 10% off coupons can make a huge difference over time. And keep an eye out for new technologies that could benefit your business: virtual and augmented reality, artificial intelligence and machine learning, etc., will only continue growing and changing how we interact with the brand and their products and services.

4) Promote Yourself Online

When you’re a small business, word-of-mouth is key. But if you want more people talking about your business — whether it’s positive or negative — you need online buzz. One of my favorite tactics: writing and publishing short guides and how-to articles on sites like LinkedIn Pulse, where they can reach a new audience that’s eager for new content. Be sure to use those hashtags! It never hurts to be associated with trending topics as long as you contribute something valuable. The goal here isn’t to spam (and even brands get penalized for that) but rather to establish yourself as an authority in your industry or niche. Even better, link back to your own website in these posts when appropriate.

Holidays are prime time for food emergencies — and prime time for savvy small businesses looking to beat big brands at their own game.

5) Media Exposure

The holiday season is saturated with news stories about the best gifts and how to buy them. Help your clients break through the noise by giving them ideas on how they can creatively get their products into media outlets that will increase brand awareness. At a minimum, offer suggestions on sending press releases or tips for interviews that could be done with local bloggers or video producers. This doesn’t have to be difficult — just an easy way to get your client some free exposure. (You know social media has changed things.) Can you brainstorm other ways to get free mentions? You might even suggest paying for mentions (if it’s within reason). Of course, there are also lots of advertising opportunities online. So make sure you mention PPC options like Google AdWords (be sure you understand whatever CPC deal your client gets!).

Supply Chain Delays even the playing field

A lot of companies often just order their inventory straight from a manufacturer and hope for good results, but if you’re interested in beating big brands during the holiday season, it’s time to change your strategy. While it may be less convenient than ordering directly from a supplier, working with distributors can help your company gain an edge over larger businesses. Distributors will allow you to work directly with manufacturers and adjust production quantities so that you have greater control over shipping dates. This is especially important as we move into the peak buying season. And don’t forget: The more efficient your supply chain is, the more likely you are to beat out those bigger competitors.