July 11, 2007

"Can We Compete with the Big Box Stores?"

by: Nika Stewart
I had a very interesting experience this weekend, which left me annoyed and upset. But as I was fuming, I realized this was a great lesson for small businesses, and so I share it with you in this week's article.

Do you worry about the big-box franchise stores swallowing up the little independent designers? With their buying power, they are able to charge much lower prices. So how do we compete? Here's my story...

On Saturday, the plug to my computer stopped working. So after a few hours, my batteries ran out, and I had no computer.

Let me explain the impact of this on my life: The weekend is the only time when I can get a big chunk of work done because my husband is around to take care of the baby. And 95% of my work is done on the computer. So for me, not having a computer on the weekend is like taking a week off from work (but without the suntan). And, as you know, when you run your own business and you take time off, you don't get paid!

So on Sunday, my husband went to a large electronics franchise store in our area. He came home with a plug that the guy at the store assured him would work with my laptop. It didn't.

Now with the 2 hours I had left to get work done, I had to run back out to the store to exchange the plug. After 30 minutes of being ignored, getting the run-around, and being outright lied to, I left without a plug. This giant electronics store did not have the one I needed.

On the way home, I stopped into a very small electronics store out of desperation. I knew they couldn't possibly have what I was looking for. After all, they were about 1/20th the size of the big store.

It took just a minute and a half for Chris (my new best friend) to find a plug that would work with my laptop. And I felt confident that it would work because Chris asked me a lot of questions to make sure he was giving me the right product. I paid for the plug and drove home singing to myself about how much I loved Chris and his small store.

Okay, now here is the point of my story... The plug cost 20% more than a similar product at the large store, and 40% more than if I had purchased it online. And I would have paid double that!

So why do we small business owners think we need to compete with the large store prices? Clients who come to us are not looking for the lowest price. They are looking for what I got at Chris's place: service, caring, attention, and a solution to a problem. You know you can compete in this area, and win - hands down.

Remember: Price is not an issue when you provide the solutions your clients are struggling with.

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