3 Things You Can Learn from Larger Companies

Corporate CEOs looking for fresh strategies are sometimes advised to revisit their thinking of earlier days, when they were smaller companies, to better compete with innovative startups. Conversely, small business owners could benefit from the big-company playbook.

While some of the practices used by big companies need a big budget, not all of them do.  

“Small businesses often overlook many of the valuable strategies that can put them on growth trajectories,” writes Mitch Free in an article for The Street.

Here are 3 things small businesses can learn from their successful large corporations.

Market For Real.

Large companies work hard to understand their customers and market their products or services to their audiences.

Luckily, it doesn’t take a lot of money to duplicate some of what they’re doing.

“Sweat equity can buy an awful lot for small businesses these days,” Free says in The Street post. 

There are inexpensive and free technology and communication options to connect with customers and scores of prospects quickly and efficiently, such as social media platforms and Google Analytics, which lets you see who’s coming to your website and from where.

Entrepreneur and online marketing expert Neil Patel cites Starbucks as the perfect place to learn about social strategy. The company’s an absolute genius, he writes in a blog posted on Entrepreneur.

Patel ticks off some of what the company does on Twitter for example – nearly every tweet has a custom image, they tweet back to customers with emojis and full messages, and their response time is “insane.” Starbucks also keeps a pulse on popular trends and shares them with followers.

“Clearly, Starbucks has a killer Twitter strategy. And so can you,” he writes. “It’s not hard to dominate Twitter. ...you don’t need millions of followers. You just need active and outstanding engagement with your followers. It’s a marketing strategy that works.”

Another big-company marketing lead small businesses can follow, Patel says, is Colgate’s content marketing, the way it shares user-friendly information about oral care education.

“Any small business can do the same thing,” he says. “Identify your target audience members. Understand their needs. Deliver the kind of content that they want. Simple.”

Let go of things that aren't working.

That could apply to technology, people or processes.

It’s not uncommon for corporations (or their boards) to let a CEO go if their performance falls short. Entrepreneurs who have built small companies into large companies have learned that lesson along the way. 

The point is, holding on to things or people that aren’t an asset to your business ends up costing you money and progress – it can hold your small business back.

So, learn to analyze situations where questionable parts to your whole business are involved. Put policies in place if necessary, just like the large companies do, to make intelligent, fact-based decisions with your company’s success top of mind.

“Don’t make the mistake of being complacent,” writes business advisor and strategist Howard Lewinter in a blog for Nimble, a social sales and marketing CRM software company.

In the case of an employee who’s not doing their job, don’t ignore it and hope for the best. Talk to them to see if you can get improvements, he says. If not, it’s time for everyone to move on.

And, the same goes for other non-performers, whether it’s technology, software or vendors:  identify what’s wrong, see if it can be fixed, and take some type of action. 

If you have equipment that’s no longer equipped to do what your company needs it to do, then go get new equipment, Lewinter says, even if you must borrow money to do so. 

Keep Listening

You don’t need the big-dollar resources of a large company to “listen” to your customers, potential customers, industry trends or talk about competitors.

“Remember, your business is ‘always on,’ even if you only operate between 9 am and 5 pm, Monday through Friday,” writes Sabrina Parsons, CEO of Palo Alto Software, in a post on Bplans, the company’s resource site for entrepreneurs.

“Every business should set up alerts online to gauge what your market is saying about you, your competitors and your market in general.”

Google Alerts is a free tool that lets you “listen” – you can set it up to alert you if a customer post a review or anything about your business online, and create alerts for industry- or competitor-specific words.