Saving traditional small 'mom and pop' businesses has been a justification for political and court decisions that prevent megastores like Wal-Mart from opening new stores all across the United States. Their prolific growth clearly impacts the small business sector. The same holds true of small and medium businesses on the web. SMBs, which represent nearly half of the private sector economy in the US, face the same challenges that mom and pop shops face in the shadow of giant new brand name superstores.
If you're looking to discover the main reason why online SMBs struggle to survive, it's pretty obvious, they simply lack the manpower and resources of bigger companies. "Take any large US retail brand they might have a dozen people on their web team solely dedicated to optimizing their web traffic and website for conversions," says Aharon Horwitz, CEO of 40Nuggets, a new service helping online SMBs improve their customer's online conversion rates. "Those 12 employees spend their entire work day running experiments to turn more traffic into sales with a plethora of copywriting and site design resources at their disposal. The same is true when it comes to SEO, where the content production capabilities of large companies are simply out of reach for many SMBs."
Although it's often an uphill climb, SMBs shouldn't get discouraged. With a solid team and the right tools at their disposal, even the smallest online business can manage to survive--and even thrive--in today's ultra-competitive marketplace.
Website-maker Wix is a popular example with its platform for the creation of websites and blogs for any SMB. Aimed at users who are less tech savvy and more design centered, Wix uses a drag and drop template so you can fully customize your site. The company makes a "no coding" promise, that should make it easy enough for anyone to make their own website. If you're so inclined, WIX has additional perks like an online store setup, round the clock customer service, and easily trackable statistics.
Another noteworthy startup that can help make a small business more competitive in the SMB space is HR manager Zenefits. The San Francisco-based company offers cloud-based software to help small businesses manage compliance and human resources-related tasks (onboarding, payroll, benefits, vacation tracking, and so on). In a little over a year, Zenefits has signed up more than 2,000 companies across 47 states, serving over 50,000 employees. Zenefits makes its money from the benefits providers--for example, a health insurance carrier--if companies choose to use it to purchase such services. They don't have to use it for that, Zenefits says, and they'd still get to use the cloud software for free. Companies are used to paying big bucks for HR software alternatives from companies like Workday, Oracle, or SAP, so Zenefits is a great solution for any SMB operating on a tight budget.
One more company dedicated to helping SMBs compete against the 'big boys' is the aforementioned startup 40Nuggets. The company is focused on building software that is easy to operate, has built-in intelligence features that don't require too much configuration, and can perform reliably in a non-standardized web environment (as SMB sites are built on many technologies). According to CEO Horwitz, by using 40Nuggets' Contextual A/B Testing, and a unique Dynamic Timing they've developed, 40Nuggets' solution can increase the success rate of a client, e.g. a boutique product seller, in a specific region by as much as 34 percent.
What else can undersized SMBs do to compete against the giants? Well, if you are outmanned, you can personalize the customer experience to make an emotional connection with shoppers, such as sending personalized "thank you" emails or including handwritten notes in order packaging. SMBs can also launch email marketing campaigns early and send these messages often, placing an emphasis on existing customers. Starting these campaigns sooner (well before a holiday, for example) than later reminds shoppers of a smaller brand, helping place it back into their shopping consideration.
All that being said, the big question SMBs need to be asking themselves is should they be DIY (Do It Yourself) or DIFM (Do It For Me)? Does it make more sense for small to medium sized business owners to build their own websites with a complete hands-on approach or to hire a professional web designer to create a website for them? Most SMB owners do not have the technical expertise or resources to create a website. It cannot be stressed enough that a website is extremely important in the business environment that exists today. Using a DIY approach, where companies such as Wix provide the SMB a complete out-of-the-box website solution, the business owner picks a template, chooses functionality, select styles and design elements form a series of options with no technical skill needed on behalf of the business owner. Another DIY option is the installation of an open-source content management system (CMS) such as WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. Using an open CMS system will require a business owner to have some technical knowledge or need to hire an assistant to create the site.
True, hiring a website design firm could become a very costly endeavor (as opposed to a DIY option like WIX), but it will be professionally built and be ready to perform well and should be effective in getting your companies' point across about your product or service. The Web-design approach will provide the small business owner with greater confidence since they know that their Web presence is functional and should deliver the anticipated results. Whether you, as the small business owner, use the less costly or more costly approach, establishing an effective marketing approach using Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Pay-per-Click (PPC), Social Media Marketing, etc. will allow visitors to find the website that you have created.
Any way you look at it, independent SMBs are an integral part of the digital-based economy. Small business-oriented software may not grab headlines like Snapchat, but it allows 50 percent of our economy to keep paying the bills. It may not be sexy, but technology that is SMB-ready helps the 'little guys' make up advantages they currently don't have.