A Small Business Owner’s Guide to Keeping Up With the Big Dogs

Big_and_little_dog_1At Online Image®, we’ve been fortunate enough to work with some of the biggest companies in the United States and Canada. It’s been a tremendous opportunity to learn about different industries and see firsthand how to market effectively in a number of unique locations. But we still spend a large portion of our time talking to small business owners, including franchisees. All of these individuals are trying to find a way to make their mark and build a successful business in a world of big box retailers, fast food chains, and other recognizable brands.

While the odds of a Mom & Pop business taking down one of these major corporations is slim to none, that doesn’t mean that both sides can’t coexist. Small businesses can offer service that bigger corporations can’t and vice versa. Today, I’d like to take a look at a few things I’ve noticed while working with franchises. Small businesses can learn a lot. It boils down to three common reasons why people choose major brands: familiarity, affordability, and convenience.

Why Consumers Choose Major Brands


People know what to expect when they walk into a McDonald’s, which includes everything from the ambience and employee uniforms to the names and costs of menu items. This knowledge leads people to choose familiar brands again and again, and that behaviors applies to the online marketplace as well. A 2013 survey from Nielsen found that 60 percent of consumers around the world will choose to buy a new product from a familiar brand instead of trying a new brand.meat and bread restaurant

What can you do?

You may not have the ability or capital to create a national presence for your own brand and service offering. But you can develop familiarity among your client base and in your local community. Maintain a presence on social media and interact with your followers or people who bring you up online. Support local causes like 5Ks for charity, youth sports, and food drives. Make sure you are regularly putting yourself out there so you are always at top of mind when people are in need of your goods and/or services.


British customer experience professional Ian Golding with a sample of 240 people to determine what was most important to consumers when making a

What can you do?

First, recognize that you will never beat the big stores at the price slashing game. But that doesn’t mean your customers can’t feel like they are getting a good deal. Highlight the differences they get from choosing your company, such as personalized service or higher-quality products, without directly bashing the competition. You can also offer coupons or rewards programs to ensure clients get the feeling they are receiving these benefits at a discount.


Major chains are everywhere. You may have customers who have to drive by three or four major chains just to reach your business. Many of these companies also have massive websites that tend to dominate local and national search results. In a world of busy schedules and overwhelming To-Do Lists, people often select an option that is close and convenient, rather than what might be best for them.

What can you do?

Because you cannot be everywhere your customers are at all times, you need to make sure every customer interaction you have is a good one. Hire hardworking people with great personalities and train them on providing positive customer experiences. Make sure your office, store, or restaurant is neat and tidy. The same principle applies for your website. Make sure it has an attractive design and includes information about your business and industry that people want to know. (If you need a little help in this area, I could certainly point you in the right direction.)


I hope you can learn from what major brands do well without attempting to be assimilated into one of these big corporations. Embrace what makes you different and think of yourself as a person, not a brand. Your small business should be a trusted member of your community that people can choose when they are in need of what you offer. While it won’t result in the big boys closing up shop in your community, creating your own path to familiarity, affordability, and convenience can lead your small business to a long and profitable lifespan.