For small, local businesses, it’s easy to become overwhelmed when larger brands with more resources come into your market and threaten to steal your business. But instead of trying to play their game, you need to come up with a plan of attack. Stop Playing Their Game NCAA college basketball is a unique sport in that you can have a school with an enrollment of 50,000 students face off against a school with an enrollment of 2,000. While schools are typically divided into divisions and conferences where they’re pitted against equal foes, out of conference scheduling makes it possible for a school like North Carolina to face off with a school like Bucknell. In these scenarios where you have smaller schools facing larger schools – which is a good analogy for small, local brands competing against large, national brands – the coach of the small team comes up with a game plan that he thinks will be strong enough to give them a chance to win. And while every game plan is uniquely tailored to the competition at hand, do you know what you almost never hear? You never hear the coach of the smaller team say, “Let’s play their game.” If the other school has a high-energy team that thrives on fast breaks and dunks, the only way the inferior team stands a chance of being successful is by slowing them down and spreading out the offense. The goal is not to beat them at their own game, but rather to do something unique that plays to their own strengths. The same thing is true in the business world. When you find your small business facing off with a larger brand that has ample resources and an enormous amount of brand equity, you can’t try to match them tit for tat. Instead, you need to play to your strengths and leverage what you’ve got. 5 Tips to Help You Compete With the Big Brands Who are the big brands in your industry and how can you compete with them? When you look at smaller brands that have been successful in the past, you’ll notice that they do a handful of things exceptionally well. Here are 5 marketing tactics you can use to follow in their footsteps. #1. Develop a Local SEO Strategy Digital marketing is obviously very important, regardless of whether you’re running a local business or a multinational corporation. The problem is that many small businesses do a poor job of handling things like SEO – launching strategies and campaigns that are really designed for bigger businesses. If you want to compete, stop trying to implement a traditional SEO campaign and instead develop a local strategy. Through things like local citation building, you can give your rankings an organic boost and won’t have to worry about visibility in your market. #2. Build One-on-One Relationships Think about a time in the past where you, as a consumer, have chosen to work with a local small business, instead of a larger brand. In all likelihood, the decision was tied to the perception of service and attentiveness. As a local business, you have the advantage of building meaningful one-on-one relationships with customers and clients. This is something that isn’t lost in the marketplace and can actually catapult you above larger brands (even if you’re more expensive). #3. Hire Influential People Want to instantly boost the credibility of your company and develop inroads to other areas of the local marketplace? Try hiring influential people. Not only will they elevate your brand image through association, but they also have connections that may allow you to grow your brand and expand your reach. #4. Tout the Concept of “Local” There’s something uniquely valuable about being a local business. It gives you an instant boost of credibility, but you have to actually invest in the community for it to become a competitive advantage. This is something Becky Murphy-Hatosy, a local business owner in Paragould, Arizona has discovered firsthand. “We keep up with everything that’s going on – from chamber meetings and events, to when the annual fair is going to happen. I make phone calls and ask them, ‘what do you need?’ We win a lot of business that way, and we’ve won a lot of regulars in the process,” Murphy-Hatosy explains. “People appreciate that we care about the things that are happening in town, and they know that our interest is genuine – and being genuine goes a long way in a small town.” #5. Get Social Media Right Social media is the great equalizer. It gives you the chance to put your brand in front of thousands (possibly even millions) of people. Even if you don’t have a five-, six-, or seven-figure marketing budget, you can use social media to gain exposure. It’s an incredible platform for small companies that are strapped for resources. But you have to use it the right way, which means focusing on quality over quantity. “Remember that customers shop at small businesses for value,” entrepreneur Jeffrey Hayzlett says. “Be radically transparent. Don’t be afraid to have a personality online and keep giving your customers something to come back for. When you build your relationships, you build your business.” Take Advantage of Your Strengths It would make no sense for a small college basketball team to face off against a larger opponent and try to control the game by rebounding and blocking shots. In fact, it would be a recipe for disaster. Instead, the smaller team would try to spread the game out and control the perimeter – grabbing steals and hitting three-pointers. As a smaller business competing in an industry with larger brands, you have to learn how to play to your strengths. This will look different for every business, so spend some time analyzing your strengths and weaknesses. Using a mixture of the strategies highlighted in this article and some of your own techniques, come up with a game plan that levels the playing field and eventually puts you on top.