| Mar 23, 2023 | | 8 min read

Competing for local attention in a global market


In today's global economy, local small and medium businesses (SMBs) face unique challenges as they attempt to compete in their local markets and on a global scale. They often find themselves struggling to compete with their larger, more established counterparts, and it’s easy to understand why. Large businesses enjoy more capital, farther reach, and a greater ability to take risks.

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Despite these challenges, local businesses remain the foundation of the economy. Given that almost 98% of businesses in the US have 19 or fewer employees, it’s clear that there is plenty of opportunity for small businesses to grab their customers’ attention and generate profit (SBA).

In this article, we'll explore some of the key challenges facing local businesses and the strategies their marketing agencies can use to help them compete effectively in their local markets while positioning themselves for global success.

Understanding the industry landscape

Technological advancements over the last few decades have transformed how both small and large businesses operate and interact with their audiences.

In a real sense, technology has made the local global, and vice versa. In other words, many small regional businesses can now supplement their local revenue by selling products and services around the world. Meanwhile, large businesses can threaten regional markets by disrupting them with expensive local ad campaigns and local penetration.

Who has the final say in this contest between local businesses and large corporations? Ultimately, the customer does. The business that best understands the desires and needs of their target audiences—near and far—will be best positioned to win their business. Marketing agencies can help their small business clients reach and convert more customers through the adept use of digital marketing.

Let’s take a look at how the SMBs who makes up the overwhelming majority of businesses in America can approach and compete in global markets.

Analyzing the competition

Sun Tzu may not have been talking about digital marketing when he said “know thy enemy,” but his wisdom still applies today. If agencies are to help small businesses effectively compete against global corporations with deeper pockets, more staff, and greater resources, it’s imperative that they study who they’re up against.

This means analyzing the products and services offered by competitors. It also means analyzing their marketing strategies and how they approach market targeting. How are they positioning themselves, and what are they emphasizing as their selling features or points of differentiation?

Being able to answer these questions can help agencies determine the most effective ways to position local businesses as a desirable alternative. Crafting an effective and distinctive marketing message hinges on analyzing the competitor’s message and understanding what makes the local business distinct.

For example, say one of these distinctions is that the small business offers a more eco-friendly alternative to large corporations. The small business could decide to launch an eco-friendly local marketing campaign to leverage this differentiation.

Identifying consumer trends

The other half of the industry landscape that small businesses need to get familiar with if they want to stay competitive is the consumer side. This means staying on top of consumer trends, monitoring their behavior, and gaining an understanding of what motivates them to purchase a product or service.

To target an audience’s needs and wants, it’s important to be clear on what exactly those are. Knowing what the audience wants can help in two distinct ways:

  1. Help businesses properly position their existing portfolio of goods or services
  2. Help inform product development in the future

Leveraging online resources to compete globally

With the research step complete, agencies can help small businesses deploy online resources to target their market and position themselves for global success, no matter who they’re up against.

The variety and sophistication of resources available to businesses today far exceeds anything available in the past. If ever there was a time when small, local players could effectively compete at a global scale, it’s today. Let’s take a look at some of these tools and strategies.

Using white label marketing services

Marketing agencies can leverage white-label digital marketing services to easily scale the services they offer local businesses to enable those SMBs to target global audiences. As a marketing agency, you can offer a wide range of white-label services to your SMB clients, using your white-label provider to deliver the services, all under your agency’s banner.

White-label marketing services enable you to offer your clients comprehensive online marketing services to ensure they can compete on a global scale, even if you don’t have the resources in house to do so.

Want to give your clients even more value? White-label marketplace software can help you resell more services and products that cover the entire customer journey, helping to establish your agency as a one-stop shop for the solutions SMBs need to thrive in a global market.

Optimizing for local search results

Given that 46 percent of Google searches have a local intent, it’s critical to conduct local SEO for your local business clients (Social Media Today). If your clients can dominate local search results, they can compete online against large conglomerates in the area.

Local SEO can also enable small business clients to go global. Being discoverable by audiences around the world can often come down to optimizing for a variety of local audiences. This can be achieved by leveraging a website builder to quickly and efficiently create unique websites for different locations. You should also create content that is optimized for local SEO and caters to different local audiences. Partnering with local influencers can also help.

Leverage SEO white label services to implement local SEO best practices and boost visibility across a range of local audiences. Together, these local audiences all over the world can add up to a global presence.

Creating a local listing

Local listings are online profiles for businesses that include NAP data (name, address, and phone number) at the very least, and often also include website info, hours of operation, reviews, FAQ sections, photos, and videos. These can appear across search engines, directories, and social media platforms.

Local listings are a key ranking factor in local search, but only if they are consistent and correct. Using local listing management software can simplify the process of creating these listings at scale and maintaining them to eliminate discrepancies.

Creating homefield advantages

So far, we’ve focused quite a bit on how small businesses need to overcome their limitations, like small budgets and resources, to outcompete their larger counterparts in global markets. But in some key respects, local businesses have the edge over the big guys.

Resources available to local businesses, such as local partnerships and community connections, can help smaller players create a powerful homefield advantage. In turn, this helps them build a local presence that is hard to imitate by large conglomerates. This provides a foundation from which local businesses can grow beyond their regional boundaries to secure more digital market share.

Creating a favorable reputation

Building a reputation in a local market is one of the most effective ways a local business can overcome price competition from bigger players. This is often a major challenge when competing against large businesses that have achieved greater economies of scale.

A favorable reputation cannot be built overnight but is well worth the long-term effort. Some reliable ways to build goodwill in the local community include offering top-notch customer service, encouraging word-of-mouth marketing through referral programs, and creating strong partnerships with other businesses or organizations in the local community. Helping a local business receive and respond to online reviews can also help. Leveraging reputation management software makes this task quick and easy.

Customer relationship management

No matter how well-organized a small business is, growing pains can be expected as they scale. To avoid having these negatively impact the customer experience, customer relationship management (CRM) software and customer communication tools should be used. These solutions can help businesses build and manage their relationships with clients, track data, identify growth opportunities, automate aspects of the sales process, answer customer questions, and obtain valuable feedback.

Crucially, CRMs can help businesses see where their various contracts are at a glance, so nothing falls through the cracks even as they scale up to serve a global market.

Leveraging local resources

Local businesses are in a unique position to have their ear to the ground in their region, in a way that large businesses may not be able to. Local knowledge can help them develop better products or present their existing products in a more favorable light.

For example, a motor oil manufacturer in a place with low winter temperatures is able to tap into local consumer knowledge about how low temperatures impact the viscosity and performance of motor oils. They’re better able to tap into the frustrations customers might have about how this product performs in the winter. In response, they can create—or focus on marketing—the product that best addresses the concern of local customers.

Frequently asked questions

How can small companies compete with big retailers?

Small companies have a number of ways to compete with big retailers and win, such as carving out a unique niche that isn’t effectively served by larger competitors, offering more personalized products or services, positioning their offering as higher quality, leveraging local partnerships, and using technology to make their products or services more widely available.

How do you make your brand stand out?

You can make your brand stand out by focusing on your unique value proposition, developing a compelling brand message and visual identity, offering a better or more enticing product or service, and using digital marketing techniques and tools to convey your strengths as a brand. Local brands can make themselves stand out against larger global competitors by highlighting their unique relationship to the local market and sensitivity to local needs and desires.

About the Author

Lawrence Dy is the SEO Strategy Manager at Vendasta. His career spans from starting as a Jr. Copywriter in the automotive industry to becoming a Senior Editorial Content Manager in various digital marketing niches. Outside of work, Lawrence moonlights as a music producer/beatmaker and spends time with friends and family.

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