4 Ways to Survive as a Small Local Business

Today I found out that a local appliance company down the street was closing its doors. This news had me wondering, in this Amazon- and Walmart-dominated world, what does the future of local businesses look like and how can we survive?
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I had a client tell me this week that he thought my profit was too high. Now, in actuality, he does not have any idea of what my profit is. What he meant was that he Googled the products and found them online for less money (even though his search could have been for the wrong model numbers—as I did not supply model numbers—or sold through unauthorized vendors). Nonetheless, he felt he had enough ammunition to tell me that I was making too much money. I told him that I drive a Dodge Journey, not a BMW (kudos to those of you driving fancy cars, by the way) and explained that we had been to his house already for an estimate at no charge and put the design work into the quote itself. We are also properly insured, we own the proper tools, and we have the proper vehicles to transport equipment to his home.

He left a deposit for his install.

Today I found out that a local appliance company down the street was closing its doors. This news had me wondering, in this Amazon- and Walmart-dominated world, what does the future of local businesses look like and how can we survive?

1) Diversify
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, whether that is only focusing on new builds, home theater, or residential AV in general. Like the stock market, the best long-term way to guarantee a positive outcome is to diversify. According to a recent article by Intel, called “A Guide to the Internet of Things,” “By 2025 the total worth of the Internet of Things could be $6.2 trillion—most of that value is in healthcare ($2.5 trillion) and manufacturing ($2.3 trillion).” How can you capitalize on this growing market? What does that mean for your business model?

2) Think Outside the Box
“The sharing economy is all about owning the customer-supply interface," reported TechCrunch. "Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no contact. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodations provider, owns no real estate.” And yet, whose remote are they looking at every night when they turn on the TV? Whose app or keypad do they use? Our industry has has always been so product-focused that we forget the value of the interface. It’s the only portion of the job that the client interacts with.

3) Get Social
Still not advertising and marketing your company on the web? “The average internet user spends 1.72 hours on social networks per day. But only 39 percent of companies leverage social media data to improve recruiting, engagement, and employer brand,” according to Deloitte, Global Human Capital Trends. If you do not understand how social networks work, find someone who does and get your business out there!

You may be spending time and valuable funds on advertisement in the paper or on the radio and yet, “Businesses are no longer the sole creator of a brand; it is co-created by consumers through shared experiences and defined by the results of online searches and conversations,” declared Brian Solis, a digital marketing analyst. Be proactive and make sure your clients are happy. If you get a good review, then share it on your social network pages. Place the testimonial on your website. Let your satisfied client be the brand.

The Simplicity Index reports that “70 percent of consumers are more likely to recommend a brand because it provides a simpler experience, and 38 percent are willing to pay more for simpler experiences.” Isn’t this exactly what we are providing to the consumer: a better way of life? Try to move toward more solutions-based systems and be less product-centric. It’s a mistake I made when putting out the quote for the client mentioned above.

4) Think of Future Generations
“Generation Z wants to be engaged by real people, especially in advertising where they are nearly twice as likely to want to see 'real people' than celebrities. Because of this desire they are more likely to visit YouTube than any other social site (85 percent)" – Deep Focus Cassandra Report.

Who the heck is Generation Z? Didn't we just start to understand Millennials? Generation Z is the children of today and the buyers of tomorrow. This generation has never channel surfed because their favorite shows appear on demand. They can ask a phone homework questions and are growing up with all the world’s knowledge at their fingertips. They surely will not be satisfied by the solutions of today.

In the technology sector, we have often used the expression, “change or die.” The rate of change continues to increase, and so must our business systems. Can the little guy survive?

How are you adapting your company to survive today and in the future? Share your thoughts below.

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