How To Start & Grow Your Business

Small Business Marketing Strategies to Compete with Big Brands

Susan Gunelius
Jan 5th, 2015
  • Estimated reading time: 4 min read
  • Hummy's

    1Take stock of your industry and the environment. 2"Don't pick a niche that another brand already owns." 3Focus on and magnify your own strengths.
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Marketing Strategy

There are a number of marketing strategies that small businesses are ideally positioned to pursue in competing with larger companies, and the results can be significant improvements in sales and profits. Here are six strategies to help you get started.

1. Get Laser-focused

The bigger a company gets, the more it has to shift its focus to staying big and getting even bigger. For example, a large public company must continually drive increased shareholder value. Broad marketing strategies that cast a wide net are the de facto standard for large companies because big numbers are so important.

As a small business, you can seize niche opportunities that the big companies can’t. A focused brand is a strong brand, so don’t be afraid to focus on a narrow niche. Your return on investment will improve.

2. Try Guerrilla Marketing

Guerrilla marketing is most often used by small businesses with limited budgets that need to build buzz quickly. Unlike big brands that can invest in network television advertising or other big ticket marketing campaigns, small businesses have to get creative. Sign spinners, man-on-the-street brand ambassadors, and other tactics that enable a small business to circumvent big competitors and carve out a chunk of market share are forms of guerrilla marketing.

Why attack straight on where you’re likely to lose when you can go around your competitor and successfully earn market share bit by bit?

3. Re-invent the Category

This recommendation requires some work. You need to fully analyze your industry, competitors, and consumers. You need to know what’s happening in the micro- and macro-environments, so you can effectively digest the strengths and weaknesses of all players as well as threats and opportunities to your business. Don’t pick a niche that another brand already owns. Instead, create your own unique niche that you can own within the marketplace.

Stop chasing competitors and come up with a space to own that is all yours. Stake your claim as the leader in that space, and positive results will follow.

4. Exploit a Strength

What is your company, team, or product extremely good at? Where do you excel? What do you do better than any competitor? Once you define your unique strength, exploit it. For example, do you truly provide better service than your competitors? Many consumers won’t mind paying a higher price to get the highest level of service.

Whatever your strength is, promote it heavily so it becomes a competitive advantage and an important form of added value in consumers’ minds.

5. Leverage Your Agility

Big companies cannot move quickly. They’re so loaded down with bureaucracy that even the simplest change requires a long list of meetings and approvals. As a small business, you can use the slowness of big brands to your advantage. Stay on top of changing market trends and be ready to act as soon as an opportunity presents itself.

You could roll out a new marketing promotion and pricing structure in the time it takes a big company to organize the first functional meeting to start talking about the opportunity!

6. Get Social

The vast majority of purchase decisions have an intrinsic emotional component. Human beings are innately emotional, and socializing taps into our emotional need to be part of a group. Building relationships via social media marketing is so effective for small businesses because the relationships that are built through Facebook, Twitter, and so on are very personal. While big brands have agencies or contract workers publishing social media content, the content published by small businesses usually comes from the owner or actual employees who live the brand promise every day.

There is a big difference between corporate and small business social media marketing authenticity, and consumers know it on both conscious and subconscious levels.

Author’s Note:

I am blogging on behalf of Visa Business and received compensation for my time from Visa for sharing my views in this post, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa’s.

Visit to take a look at the reinvented Facebook Page: Well Sourced by Visa Business. The Page serves as a space where small business owners can access educational resources, read success stories from other business owners, engage with peers, and find tips to help businesses run more efficiently.

Every month, the Page will introduce a new theme that will focus on a topic important to a small business owner’s success. For additional tips and advice, and information about Visa’s small business solutions, follow @VisaSmallBiz and visit

This article was written by Susan Gunelius and published by Women on Business. 

Susan Gunelius is CEO of KeySplash Creative Inc., an Orlando, Fla.- based marketing communications company.

Established in 2007, Women on Business, is an award-winning online destination for the news and information women need to be successful in the business world from today’s thought leaders.