As a small business, one of the biggest challenges faces is trying to remain competitive, especially when going up against larger brands who have more financial resources and connections. Thankfully, evolving online technologies are making it possible to stay relevant — without breaking the bank.
Online Tools Close the Gap
The Internet is the great equalizer. While there was a period of time during which big box stores and global brands emerged and pushing small, local businesses, it seems that time has come — and gone. Sure, Fortune 500 brands still have plenty of unique advantages and continue to spend their way to the top; but all is not lost for small businesses who want to compete.
The Internet not only gives small businesses access to customers via social media and digital marketing channels, but it also serves as fertile ground for cost-effective tools and resources.
Historically, your organization needed deep pockets to gain access to the latest and greatest tools. Today, subscription-based models and scalable platforms make it possible for even the smallest businesses to make powerful investments that permit incredible versatility.
While these small businesses still have to put forth a tremendous amount of effort, it’s good to know that there’s opportunity to level the playing field. If nothing else, it creates a sense of optimism.
As a small business, there are thousands of different tools and online resources available at your disposal. The ones you choose to use may be different than the ones another business zeros in on.
Here are some examples of highly effective online solutions small businesses are using to level the playing field with a fraction of the upfront investment:
1. Online Printing
Many large organizations have their own printing departments, which allows them to send creatives directly from the marketing and advertising departments down the hall to have them printed off in whatever format they need — flyers, banners, catalogs, brochures, etc. Smaller companies have no such luxury, which leads to significant inefficiencies. Online printing is here to eliminate these shortcomings. "We understand many of the paint points small businesses experience when trying to compete on the bigstage, "PrintingCenterUSA explains. "Cost is one of the primary concerns, which is why we’ve made it a point to offer extremely cost-effective products that can be ordered online with the click of a button."
This might not seem like a very big deal for e-commerce businesses and other companies that focus the vast majority of their energy on digital marketing and advertising, but it’s a huge luxury for those brands that do a lot of physical marketing.
2. Social Media Automation Tools
As wonderful as social media is, from a brand building perspective, it takes a lot of time and effort to manage. Between the various platforms — and the continual need for fresh, original content — most larger companies are forced to hire full-time social media departments. While the average small business can’t afford to do this, social media automation tools make it possible to put some of this on autopilot without compromising the brand’s integrity.
3. Cloud Storage
It isn’t a sexy topic like social media, but cloud storage is just as important for small businesses (and probably more so). Whereas companies once had to invest in physical on site servers in order to store files and keep data safe, it can now be controlled and managed virtually. This offers a number of powerful benefits — including cost savings. "Servers are expensive to run and often more expensive to maintain, and by using a service like Dropbox, I don't need to spend additional money on server support personnel," says Jeff Kear, owner and founder of an online event management software company. "This probably saves my business $5,000 to $10,000 every year."
Other benefits include the ability to work remotely, easy transfer and movement of data, superior data backup, and enhanced security features.
4. Freelance Marketplaces
Whereas a large business has the ability to add another full-time employee every time work needs to be done, smaller businesses can’t make such a permanent investment — especially when demand is up and down. Thankfully, the internet levels the playing field in this area as well.
Freelance marketplaces like Upwork, Toptal, SimplyHired, and Fiverr make it possible to find a skilled freelance professional to handle a single or recurring job without needing a robust network. This gives even the smallest business an opportunity to get a specific job done quicker and more cost-effectively.
Resurgent Small Business
It would be accurate to say small businesses, on the whole, are experiencing a bit of resurgence. Big companies with lots of brand equity still have many advantages, but online tools — such as the ones we’ve discussed in this article — are giving hope and opportunity to smaller brands with smaller resources. Regardless of where you stand, that’s good news.
Larry Alton is a professional blogger, writer, and researcher. A graduate of Iowa State University, he's now a full-time freelance writer and business consultant. Currently, Larry writes for Entrepreneur.com, Inc.com, and Forbes.com, among others. In addition to journalism, technical writing and in-depth research, he’s also active in his community and spends weekends volunteering with a local non-profit literacy organization and rock climbing. Follow him on Twitter (@LarryAlton3), at LinkedIn.com/in/larryalton, and on his website, LarryAlton.com. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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