Should You Change your Business?
Let’s say you are a small business owner running a retail yarn shop. You sell every kind of yarn a passionate knitter could desire, but you aren’t selling enough product to pay the rent. Consider for a moment that someone came into your store and told you that they don’t really shop at your store because they can get all of the yarn they want online (at prices you could never compete with)!
I know, it’s upsetting. I used to run an Art Supply retail shop. Huge companies like Dick Blick, Cheap Joe’s, Michael’s, and Hobby Lobby snagged my valued customers away one hand-full at a time. But the great part about being a small business is the adaptability.
Let’s revisit your yarn shop for a moment: how are you going to respond to the valuable information that your lost customer has just given you? You decide your business needs to change to respond to the current needs of your customers.
Service-based businesses can compete with big corporations and online stores because they offer something that your customers can’t get on the internet and won’t find in a huge corporation.
Offer Something your Competition Can’t.
Determined to adapt and survive, you put together a few basic classes that people can take at your yarn shop. Since you know how to knit and crochet, you start by offering those classes. You go online to MailChimp and start an email list. Whenever a customer comes into your shop, you collect their email address in a guestbook. Once a month, you send out a schedule of the classes you are offering.
At first, you offer classes after hours so that you won’t have to answer phones or entertain tourists. But as you meet and train new knitters, you commission them to teach the basic classes for you in your lounge area. By hiring contractors instead of employees, you cut back on many employee-related expenses.
As your classes become more successful, you might start selling more product. But since you are more concerned with selling an experience, you focus less on bringing in every single yarn imaginable, and order fewer products from your distributors. You might still carry local, hand-dyed yarns that no one can find, and increase your inventory of basic, inexpensive knitting supplies that you can use in classes.
Follow the success.
In the case of my art supply retail shop, the classes were a huge success. Almost every class we put on schedule filled up. We hired teachers as contractors to teaching classes and paintings and paid them a good percentage of the profit.
If your business starts doing really well with classes and events, don’t limit yourself by sticking to the basics. Offer advanced cabling classes for experienced knitters. Host classes to help young knitters though a complicated pattern. Bring in artists who can teach your students to hand-dye their own yarn, and sell the materials that they will need in a kit. Find someone who can teach Tunisian Crochet. Get the idea?
You will develop a customer base that loves your classes, shares your interest for discovery, and spreads the word about what you do. It may take time to get something like that off the ground, but if you stick with it, you will discover a niche that the internet and Hobby Lobby can’t adequately fill. That’s how you compete with companies that are similar to you.
Have you already changed your small business to successfully compete with online markets and huge corporations? What marketing strategies have you found successful? Leave your answer in the comments!