Going Up Against Wal-Mart

In this article, we are using Wal-Mart to represent big business. It is not meant in any kind of derogatory way (heck, we LIKE Wal-Mart, it allows us to meet the needs of our family on a budget that we’d never be able to live on otherwise).

When you start out a business that is very small, limited by cashflow crunches, and unable to afford the best in marketing or sometimes even product or service tools, you need an edge. Something that people cannot get from big business. Something they want so much they’ll overlook your shortcomings, and appreciate that they got what they really wanted.

Typically, that is personal service. A concept which is so overpromoted as to be useless as a marketing descriptor. But the one, nevertheless, which makes the real difference. You can’t just say it though – because one thing big business CAN do better than you, is SAY it… and they DO.

So you have to find ways to make it clear that you are the real thing. Put aside the trite words, and show it – slow down, be patient, listen, help, and promote using tactics that don’t compete with big business on their terms. Find ways to make your own terms!

It means finding ways to reach people, be real, and develop relationships. Wal-Mart CAN’T do that. They can create a corporate face, but it is still a corporate face. They cannot be one person who knows the client. You can’t even get the same cashier twice in a row, let alone get someone to remember that you like Prairie Gold Hard White Wheat Flour so can they please keep it in stock.

Big business spends billions on researching customers, analyzing their patterns, keeping records to automate the feel of personal attention. But they just can’t do the real thing. All they can do is approximate it with cold efficiency.

You can be your business – you can know your customers by name, and you can be helpful even when you aren’t sure you can help them. Over time, this is hugely powerful.

Big business can’t touch that.

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