How can I use Customer Experience Strategy to compete with bigger, more established brands?

Size matters, but not in the way you might think. Often as a small start-up it can feel daunting to try and win business, even more so if you know you have some established competition out there in the form of a big brand. But - don’t panic. Size isn’t everything in business and getting rid of any lingering insecurity around the size of your operation will be critical to getting out there and making your business a success.


Even as a small business you can still win big contracts; you can still catch the attention of your dream customers and, as long as you have the processes, the customer experience and the capacity to work with a big firm, then there should be nothing stopping you. Even better, you should be using your size as a huge selling point.


When we first launched Think Wow, we fell into the usual traps that often catch entrepreneurs off guard. Fresh from a corporate world, running large corporate teams, we struggled to shed that corporate feeling, the expectation of keeping up appearances and we asked the questions – How can we make ourselves look bigger than we are? How can we hide the fact that we’re married to make sure we look more professional?


These were the wrong questions and luckily it didn’t take too long for us to figure that out!


Instead, we asked – How can we create a clear expectation of what we provide our customers? How will they feel about their experience with us? How can we communicate the benefits of working with a smaller business? How can we use the fact we’re a family business to create more trust within our target market? How can we make certain that each of our customers feels valued?


We now have a successful business, turning over profit, and are ready to expand.


So how can you embrace your size to win big? Let’s look at two fantastic examples from within the beauty industry.



Compare this to Michelle from The Beautie Lounge...


Of course, there are benefits to being an established brand. If you’ve built your brand in the right way, with a trusted reputation, your customers won’t always research you before they book. You might be able to weather storms a little better, dining out on previous successes with your customers inherently trusting you, not checking up on reviews and missing out on the dire warnings of other consumers. That will work in the short term whilst you fix any customer experience issues or until your negative reputation catches you up. At best, it will buy you time. The reality is that a reputation can be ruined as fast as it is built.


The bigger and better known you are, the more people place high expectations on the service or experience you provide. If you become known for an excellent experience, but don’t meet your customers’ expectations, the level of disappointment your customer will feel is often more intense.


So now we know that bigger doesn’t always mean better and that the grass isn’t necessarily greener on the other side – what can you do as a smaller business to embrace your size?


Don’t pretend to be something you aren’t


Don’t feel tempted to act bigger or more established than you really are. Did you know that building trust with your target audience is crucial? 75% of consumers surveyed stated that they would continue to buy from a brand they trusted, even if a competitor become a more fashionable bet. Needless to say, you won’t build trust by pretending to be something you aren’t and it could potentially damage your reputation if it comes out that you haven’t been honest and upfront.


Instead, proudly celebrate your size. Use it to point out that you care about each and every customer, that they are not just a number to you. You can do this by delivering an exceptional customer experience at each stage, and if you do a little happy dance each time you win a new client, then let them know that. It’s a great way for them to feel valued.



Show up online and let your customers see the real you


Think about your own spending habits. Would you rather buy from someone you know? People buy from people, that’s true even in the digital age. The hard part is helping your customers get to know you when so much of our interaction takes place online. Networking sites such as LinkedIn can bridge that gap... Improving your online profile, letting your network get to know the person behind the business, and showing up consistently will ensure your customers come to you.


Don’t be afraid to be a little vulnerable from time to time. It doesn’t have to be positivity, sunshine, and success every day. Share your business journey, the ups, the occasional downs, and let people see that you are just like them. They’ll respect you for it and you’ll be amazed at how your following will grow.


Keep things simple and lean on your values as you grow.


Where large companies hire large teams it brings with it the need to invest in regular training of those teams, as well as the creation of robust systems to manage the recruitment and selection process to ensure that those they employ care about customers and will be diligent. A brand is only as strong as its representatives so if they haven’t bought into the values and mission of the business it can quickly ruin any progress made.


If you are on your own or a small team it’s far easier to be aligned on your values and purpose so keep it simple for as long as you can, but consider how you will embed your values in your team as you grow.


Make customer experience your biggest competitive advantage


On average, 84% of businesses that are actively working on their customer experience strategy report an increase in revenue and this year experience is set to take over from both price and product as the leading brand differentiator. You don’t have to spend lots to get it right either – just walk through the customer experience from your customer’s perspective, ask them for feedback in a way that’s easy and convenient and then fix anything that isn’t working well.


Building a service that deliberately centres around what your customers expect and need from you is a great way to show them that it’s not about size, it’s what you do with it that counts.


Make it personal


The best thing about being a small business is that you know each of your customers. You worked hard to find them and you are probably the one who talks most to them - that’s an incredible asset and not one most large businesses can easily replicate.


In the comparison above, the smaller, independent beautician actually visits Paperchase so often to buy cards for her clients when they get married or have a baby that the shop assistants know her. What a lovely touch, to know and care about each of your clients so much that you celebrate their important life moments with them. Do you think the bigger businesses can compete at that level?


So there you have it, starting small can be your superpower - and who doesn’t want to have one of those!?


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