Small businesses often have a hard time competing. There are so many options for customers to choose from—what makes them choose you?
There are many reasons a customer should choose you over the competition—you’re great! But those customers have to find you, notice you, and want to work with you. And that’s where the challenges lie.
When there are so many businesses doing the same things to grab attention from the same pool of customers, it can leave you scratching your head. What can you do to make your business truly stand out and beat the competition?
In this post, we’ll cover some of the basics you should master as well as some out-of-the-box ideas for how to make your business stand out and win in a sea of competition.
We’re throwing you a life jacket—grab it!
Master the basics to make your business stand out
While these are considered basics, the truth is that not many businesses are mastering them. And, that’s what can make your business stand out. When you’re doing the basics perfectly—or at least better than the competition—you can easily win over new customers.
1. Start with a great website
Any business in operation today needs to have a website, and most businesses have one. But, we see a lot of website mistakes that turn customers away—or keep businesses from getting seen at all.
Here are a few basic elements of a great website that can help your business stand out:
Make it mobile-first
Your website should be mobile-friendly to provide an excellent experience for your customers who visit your site on their mobile devices but also because Google has started indexing the mobile versions of sites over the desktop versions. This means that if your website isn’t mobile-friendly, it’s less likely to rank on Google for searches related to your business.
Plus, mobile devices drove 60% of website visits last year, so you really can’t afford to miss out on this traffic!
Be sure it’s easy to navigate
Additionally, you want your website to be easy to navigate for your visitors, meaning a clean, uncluttered design, an organized site structure, and pages for each of your major services or products, who you are, and how to contact you.
This website was previously cluttered and had too many navigation options. Now, it’s clean and streamlined!
If you’ve ever been to an outdated or overwhelming website, you know that the right navigation can make all the difference.
Include clear calls to action
You want the people who visit your site to take the next step to become your customer—whether that’s calling, emailing, or buying from you right then. Make sure to include your contact information and a way to contact you on every page of your site. Sounds basic, but it gets forgotten!
Keep it speedy
Did you know that over 50% of people will leave a mobile site if it takes more than three seconds to load? If your website doesn’t load quickly, you just might lose a customer to your top competitor.
Want to know how your website stacks up? Try our free website grader to get your score!
2. Manage your local listings
Your local listings give you another way to stand out online because they help you show up in both search results and maps results like Google Maps and Apple Maps.
This is another basic strategy, but by ensuring your local listings have the most accurate and updated information about your business, including your phone number, website, address, and hours of operation, you can stand out from competitors that may have incorrect—or missing—local listings.
Get on the right listings
When it comes to managing your local listings, you want to make sure your business is present on the top local listings. The most important ones for most industries include Google My Business, Yelp, and Bing Business. Check that your business is listed on these sites. If it’s not, follow the steps to add your business:
- Add your business to Google My Business
- Add your business to Bing Business
- Add your business to Yelp
Check that your information is correct
Super basic, but do you know how many businesses have incorrect or outdated information in their listings? It’s a lot.
You want to make sure that all your business information is correct—especially your name, address, and phone number (also known as NAP). Having consistent NAP across the web can help improve your rank on Google because it signals to the search engine that your information is trustworthy and accurate. Plus, it makes your customers happy when they find the right info about your business online.
Optimize your listings
After cleaning up your listings, you can optimize them by adding pictures, videos, your business branding, and managing your reviews. Many listings out there are missing these crucial optimizations, giving you another way to stand out!
3. Invest in local SEO
SEO, or search engine optimization, is the practice of optimizing your website and web presence for specific keywords that your most likely customer would search for. You need a local SEO strategy if you want your business to stand out because it’s how you can show up in search results.
Local SEO comprises multiple components of your online presence, including the backend of your website, your web content, and offsite factors like your local listings, reviews, and more.
An example of organic local search results on Google in the green.
By investing in local SEO, you can stand out from competitors in your area who offer similar products or services by ranking above them in search engines like Google or Bing.
4. Focus on reviews
Reviews are one of the best ways to help your business stand out because customers want to do business with the best. And, we know that close to 90% of customers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, meaning if your online reviews aren’t great, then you’re not standing out from your competitors.
Master the basics of online reviews using these tips:
Actively monitor your online reviews
Find the main sites where customers are leaving reviews for your business. Many times, these align with your top listings—like Google My Business and Yelp. Keep tabs or set up Google alerts for your business so you can see reviews as they come in.
Respond to all your reviews
Another way your business can stand out with reviews is by how you handle them. By responding to negative reviews in a way that addresses the reviewer’s concern, supplies a solution, and follows through, you can not only win over that reviewer but potential customers as well.
You also want to respond to positive reviews!
Get new reviews
Getting reviews can also help you stand out by building up a foundation of positive reviews and keeping your reviews current. Get tips for getting Google reviews here.
5. Offer stellar customer service
Customer service is one of the pillars of a successful business, but it’s also an area that not all businesses have mastered.
Over half of all adults are willing to pay more for good customer service, so you know it’s important.
Not-so-basic ideas for how to make your business stand out
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s get into a few not-so-basic ideas that you might be missing out on and that can make a big impact in getting your business to stand out.
6. Run sales during odd holidays
Sure, you can (and should!) still run regular holiday promotions like around Thanksgiving or Christmas, but if you really want to stand out, you can also celebrate those lesser-celebrated holidays with promotions or sales. We’re talking National Cookie Day, Get to Know Your Customers Day, or Ice Cream Month!
Choose one (or a few) random holidays to run sales and promotions around. This can help your business stand out and attract new customers throughout the year.
7. Think of out-of-the-box promotional ideas
In a sea of promotions for 50% off or BOGO, why not run a promotion for 57% off your purchase? Or get a free bag of potatoes with every purchase? (I don’t know how popular that one would be, but you get the picture.)
You can make your business stand out by running out-of-the-box sales or promotions that stick out to customers in some way or another.
8. Run regular social media contests
Another way to make your business stand out is by running regular social media contests. This can help you not only grow your audience and get more followers, but it can keep customers coming back to your social sites instead of moving on to your competitors. Think about a regular monthly contest or other cadence you can run to keep customers interested.
9. Offer a customer loyalty program
If a customer had to choose between getting a sandwich at your sandwich shop versus a competitor’s, what would make them choose yours? If they had some kind of loyalty to your business, that’s one surefire way!
A customer loyalty program can help you build a connection with your customers and stand out from the competition.
You can easily run a customer loyalty program by handing out stamp cards to provide discounts or give freebies after customers shop with you a specific number of times (or spend a certain amount).
10. Try something new on social media
Sure, most businesses have a social media presence where they share general updates or information about their business. But, why not stand out by trying something new?
Maybe you let one of your employees take over your Instagram for the day and share Stories or Instagram Reels of what their shift looks like.
Or, maybe you go Live on Facebook to highlight a new service you’re offering. Look at what your competitors are doing on social media to see what’s not being done—then try that!
11. Be active in your community
One of the major ways your small or local business can stand out from the competition—especially the big brands—is through your tie to your community.
By engaging in your community, either through sponsorships, participating in local events, or volunteering with a local organization, you’re able to stand out from the competition and show your customers (AKA those in your community!) that you care.
12. Highlight your local roots
Speaking of your community, did you know that customers specifically want to support local businesses? One study found that over half of consumers were more likely to buy from a local business rather than a national retailer.
Many businesses take for granted that they are local. So, by touting your local roots, you can help your business stand out and compete in your area.
13. Create a compelling brand story
Every business has a story, but not all of them are sharing theirs! Your brand story can build trust and an emotional connection with potential customers while helping you stand out from the competition.
Take sock company Bombas, for example. Their business is selling socks. Sounds simple enough, right? But, when you look at their brand story, you see that for every pair of socks they sell, they give a pair to someone affected by homelessness.
When you purchase from them, you become part of their brand story—and that might make you buy your socks from them rather than picking up a pack at your nearest Walmart.
14. Become a thought leader in your niche
By capitalizing on your expertise in your industry, you can easily become a thought leader in your niche and someone that customers look to as an authority. For example, if you own a plumbing business, you can create and share blog content, videos, and Q&As about common plumbing problems.
By educating your audience in this way, you’re standing out from the other plumbing businesses that aren’t doing this. And, you’re building trust with your audience so the next time they have a plumbing problem, you’re the one they’re going to call!
Make your business stand out
In a world with seemingly unlimited competition and new businesses popping up every day, it can feel impossible to stand out and win new customers. But, with the right ideas and marketing plan to back you up, you can truly make your business stand out and build loyal customers to keep your business thriving.