BoxingIf you run a small business, you know how tough it can be to compete with your larger competitors especially when they’re undercutting prices like crazy to get people in the door. Not to mention that a lot of them have huge advertising budgets for newspapers, TV commercials and radio spots. So how can you compete? You have to be tough like Rocky that’s how! You have to be creative and you have to do some grass roots marketing.Here are a few ideas you might be able to put to work for your business.

1. Give an extra discount just for getting an email address. Communicating via email marketing is far less costly than communicating in almost any other form of marketing and you need every penny you can save.

2. Give free parking. If you have a parking lot near you, find out if you can validate the parking fees for up to an hour. Making it as easy as possible for your customers to get to you and save could be paramount. They may just choose you for that reason alone over chaos at Walmart.

3. Give a $20 gift card for their next purchase. If your customers buy something over a certain amount give them more. A store here in the Bay Area was giving $20 gift cards for every $100 customers spent and they could only use them in the following month.

4. Serve snacks or coffee. You really can drive more business by giving your customers an excellent experience. I know of a car dealership that serves a full-on breakfast while you wait to have your car serviced. There’s nothing worse than having to sit in a room waiting for an oil change, so they make it pleasant!

5. Have a kid-friendly shop or office. Keeping the kids busy while Mom or Dad does the shopping or the office visit could be the thing that gets them to your place. They’ve got a tough job as it is, if you can make it easier for them to come to you while giving the kids some fun, it just might get them to stop going to the big boys.

6. Buy your competitor’s name as a Google keyword. If your larger competitor is spending big advertising dollars, you might be able to capitalize on people searching for their company name. Of course you can’t make false claims in your ads and if it’s a Fortune 500 player there’s a chance Google won’t let you, but if you type their company name into Google Search, and you see ads down the right-hand side, chances are you won’t have a problem. One note on that, you can’t use their company name IN your ad content.

7. Pick up the phone. When people are dealing with your larger competition and have to call them about something they usually expect a phone tree about an hour long and then another hour of wait time. You might have the luxury of picking up the phone when it rings or calling them back quickly if they leave a message. They might want to start dealing with that type of service rather than saving a few bucks to sit on hold.

8. Start Tweeting. It might sound silly to you but surely you’ve got customers and prospects that are following other businesses on Twitter, why not yours? VerticalResponse customer Due Maternity does a great job at this, and in no time they got 268 followers. It may not sound like much, but it’s 268 people they can message at any given moment about their sales, content and site. The big guys are starting to do it, you may as well beat them to the punch!

Going the extra mile and being clever are the only ways to compete against a large company, but it’s not impossible. A company like Due Maternity has a very successful website with many thousands of customers. They compete with a larger maternity brand with a website and 1000 stores but are still growing and successful. I know they use a lot of these techniques to help them keep growing!

© 2009 – 2012, Contributing Author. All rights reserved.