How Small Biz Can Beat Big Box for Local Customers

As a small business owner, one of the biggest challenges you face is the battle against your Big Box Competitors.  They can afford to run more ads, offer lower prices, and can make a splash in the marketplace faster and bigger.  But, don't despair, there are some things you can do to help you pull ahead when it comes to grabbing those local customers.

So let's take a look at some proven marketing strategies that have been used successfully by companies of all sizes to drive sales and carve out their piece of the market.

You VS Big Box - what are your options?

Traditional Advertising

Traditional advertising through television, print, and radio is expensive.  With their big budgets, it's hard to compete against them in this space.

Plus these methods are typically a numbers game with a hard-to-track return.  They work by having you blanket them with enough funds to get you in front of enough people in the hope that you'll get enough new customers to offset the cost.

A larger company can absorb this risk where it's not always a smart move for you.

You have a smaller budget to work with, so risky marketing investments with nearly impossible to track ROI are typically going to be a bad strategy.  You can implement something like tracking URLs and landing pages specific to these radio, tv, or print campaigns to help try to track the source of new business back to them, but it's not always a good measure of it.

If you do choose to go this route anyway, then at least add them one at a time.  For example, you know how much business you're doing now.  If you start up a TV commercial and that's the only thing you do at that time, and your sales go up - you know it's likely that your increase in sales is due to the TV commercial.  However, if you started the radio ad, print ad, and TV ad at the same time, you wouldn't know which one was helping you.

Online Advertising

There are a lot of places you can list your business for free or cheap online.  Just to name a few:

  • Facebook
  • Google Places
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • Instagram
  • There are also different Chattanooga area directories for businesses in specific niches.  For example, Chattanooga Has Fun provides listings for entertainment and food businesses in the area.

    Even if you're hiring a company like us to help you get listed in all these places, it's still going to typically be cheaper than one month on the radio or TV and these listings last virtually forever.

    More than 80% of customers today use the web to find information about local businesses.

    So having this exposure can mean a lot to your business.

    Google Local

    Google also favors results that are physically close to the person doing the search.  Because your business is optimized for this local area, Google is going to be friendlier to you than it will to a multi-location Big Box store that's in multiple states.  So making the time to claim your free local listing with Google is a step in the right direction in beating them for local customers.


    This is another area where Big Box's deep pockets make it harder for you to compete.  They will have a professional company designing their logos, business cards, sales flyers, radio ads, tv, etc.  Everything will be cohesive and totally branded to fit their design style, colors, fonts, and messaging.

    It's going to be easy for you to turn to sites like Vistaprint that make it simple to get a single design and put it on everything they can print.  The problem with that is that isn't unique to you.  Anyone can do the same things and likely they already have.  So it won't give you the "Oo la la" that you need to make a memorable impression.

    Branding is something you really need to have personalized to you - so it's worth the investment to get it right.

    Paid Advertising

    While they have a big budget to work with, Big Box simply cannot target every city and every geographic area without spending more money than even they would be uncomfortable parting with.

    This means you have an edge.

    Now - you don't have to have hundreds and thousands of dollars to make an impact with paid ads.  You just have to be willing to experiment and know how to spend your money wisely.  One of the BEST places to start is with Facebook's boosted posts.  It really easy to get started with and it's hard to mess it up.

    Quick note - boosts and ads are not exactly the same thing, but close enough for your purpose.  The biggest difference that will apply to you is how you set the budget.  With the boosts, it's easy.  You just say how much you want to spend total and how long you want it to run.  The only restriction is that you have to spend at least $1 per day.

    When you're getting started with it - I recommend doing a smaller boost per post and posting more frequently.  For example, I boost everything I post for $1 for one day.  If I see that it gets people liking, sharing, and commenting, then I'll go back and add $5 for 5 more days.

    This lets me try out different wording and different images on the same post to see what's going to work to actually get people's attention without investing much money at all.

    Summing it up:

    • Branding is worth the investment - so put in the time and room in your budget to personalize your company image.
    • Don't try to compete with traditional advertising unless you are willing to put in the time and effort it takes to gauge the ROI of those companies.
    • Get yourself and your business listed everywhere you can that's free online.  With social channels, make sure you can manage them if you're creating one.  Otherwise, stick to all of the great listing locations that you get on for free.
    • Claim your Google local listing so Google knows exactly where you are and what you do.
    • Try out Facebook boosting, but control your budget.  Spend a small amount - less than $10 - on each boost.  If it works well, you can always add to it.

    This only scratches the surface of ways you can compete against Big Box in the Chattanooga area. 

    Do you use any of these to promote your small business?

    Please let me know in the comments how you think they are working for you and your business.

    Ashley Burnett

    Web Ninja

    One of my first jobs was running a cash register in my grandmothers diner. My job was to talk to customers and and to keep everything in my area neat and organized. Now years later those lessons I learned help me in managing client files and projects. Making sure our team is working to help our clients reach their business goals is what drives me everyday.

    I am a strong believer that to succeed in life you have to work hard and never let roadblocks stand in your way. You have to read and study but you also have to experience life and all that it can teach you.

    My mission is to help clients and our team have the materials and knowledge they need to make every project a success, while making sure to spread some of the information I learn around for others to enjoy.