Big business strategies can be complicated, convoluted and take entire armies of employees to implement.

Here are a few strategies big corporations use and how to take that thinking and apply it to your small business.

The marketing funnel

Basically, the marketing funnel is the term big businesses use to describe a series of touch points your company has with a prospective customer. As the potential customer moves down the funnel you have the opportunity to build a relationship, earn trust and transform them into a client.

Big business has entire teams working on how to automate this process, speed it up and improve conversion rates.

But a small business doesn't necessarily need to make that investment to reap the rewards.

As a small business owner, the easiest way to use the marketing funnel theory is to start by being aware of a customer's journey with your company. How did they stumble across you? How often do they return? When do they make a purchase? By asking questions like that, you start to understand how to move a customer from the point that they discover you, through to interacting with you and ultimately purchasing your product or service.

The aim is to have most of your customer interaction happening at the bottom of the funnel because those people are closer to making a purchasing decision.

Small businesses can operate on these ideologies without investing in all the expensive tools and resources big business do.

The partnership approach

Big businesses often cut deals or team up with companies that can offer their customers an extra benefit. Even Apple did it when it enabled Microsoft 365 on iPads.

My company, cloud accounting platform   Xero, has built a huge add-on network with more than 500 integrations and has used its own scale to partner with companies like  Google, AppleDropbox and  Adobe so customers can access a bunch of extra products to make their small business operate more efficiently.

While small businesses might have trouble trying to strike a deal with Apple, they can work with each other. For example, a florist might team up with a chocolatier to offer their customers beautiful flowers and chocolate products or a butcher might partner with a farmer's market to offer weekly meal boxes.

It's about leveraging what you're good at, not trying to be everything to everyone, and giving your customers a more complete experience.

Market segmentation

Enterprise-level organizations spend millions of dollars on research to define the markets they're operating in or targeting.

Market segmentation is important because you need to know which part of the marketplace you should be aiming to sell to.

Samsung did it really well with their smartphone. Instead of going hard up against Apple, Samsung spent a lot of money to identify three groups in the market. It found there were the Apple fan boys and girls, those who were too professional and saw Apple as a toy, and the "technocrats", which is someone who buys the best technology, regardless of brand.

Samsung decided to leave those Apple fans and go after the business market and the technocrats. It found the technocrats were leaning towards Apple because the group saw that as the best tech on the market. Every marketing activity during the early days of the Galaxy was aimed at customers who could be separated from Apple by focusing on tech features the iPhone didn't support.

For small businesses, segmenting a market enables you to hone your focus on a particular demographic or geographical area, and be the best at servicing that part of the market.

To figure out your market, small business owners should ask questions like who do you want to sell to? Who do you want to avoid? What markets make you the most money?

By answering those questions, small business owners can prioritize and only allocate resources to areas which will have the highest returns.

Implementing processes

Many big businesses document their processes in massive playbooks. They have full software suites to keep track of where different tasks or projects are at so teams can stay across what's happening.

While the beauty of small business is that it can be agile and work outside the box, sometimes it helps to implement checklists or to-do lists using tools like Trello to manage day-to-day tasks. Similarly, Xero helps small business owners move from a haphazard shoebox full of receipts, or a spreadsheet to manage expenses, to a more transparent system which gives you real-time insights into your business' cashflow and financial standing.

Documenting how tasks should be completed and investing in tech tools to help your team get organized can help you stay focused and if you can't, for one reason or another, do something there is a guide for an employee to follow so projects don't fall through the cracks.

The office of the chief revenue officer

Big businesses have specific people whose job it is to think about sales all day long. They're usually paid a bucket load of money to figure out how to get more people to buy what the company is selling and they've got big complex software suites behind them to analyze real-time data and pick out insights.

While it isn't always viable for a small business to have someone in this role, it is necessary that someone within the business is thinking about sales and the customer. You should always know who your customer is, what they want and where they are.

The sales structure for a small business with two or three people should be very flat. The owner is usually at the heart of the operation.

Incorporating a flatter structure makes it easier to keep an eye on sales and how the business is going on a day-to-day basis.

As you scale up, to more than 10 people, it becomes more important to have a level of division around what segments each person should address.

 

Most businesses that have grown to become big businesses usually started by going after one specific market, dominating it and then moving onto the next vertical.

But they all focused on the customer and how to make them advocates, generating sales and loyalty. It doesn't cost a lot to change the way you think about your small business but it can help you become a big business, or at least act like one, sooner.

Published on: Apr 22, 2016