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How to Compete with National Brands

National brands… Every industry has them, and as a locally owned and operated company (regardless of your size), you’ve probably lost potential customers to your national counterpart because of their brand name alone.

As a local or even regional company, it can be tough to go toe-to-toe with these giants, but with a little strategy, clever thinking, and efficient marketing; you can compete with them.

Image of opposing boxing gloves

Avoid Copying National Brands’ Marketing Activities

Given the size of these companies and their marketing budgets, they have a certain level of resiliency that gives them the ability to withstand wasted money.

Believe it or not, a lot of their marketing efforts waste quite a bit of money on ineffective advertising tactics. This is because their size and market position have allowed them to either be complacent and not change outdated tactics or be experimental and try out new tactics that might not work.

By copying what they’re doing, you're likely to copy some of those marketing efforts that lose money. But because your company is smaller, it will experience a harder hit when your budget is wasted on ineffective marketing efforts.

In addition to being resilient, the size of your national counterparts allows them to spend money on marketing activities that require a lot of money to generate significant returns.

For example: A national company can afford to run a branding campaign on streaming platforms or local TV stations for 5 months – which would be just enough time for the campaign to start generating returns. If your company were to copy their campaign but could only afford to run the campaign for 2 months – which wouldn’t be enough time to generate returns – you’d be out of a lot of money with nothing to show for it.

To truly compete with national brands, your company will have to make efficient and effective use of your resources in areas where it really counts.

One of the best ways to do this is by narrowing your scope.

Narrow the Scope of Your Marketing Efforts

When you narrow the scope, your marketing efforts become a lot more effective and can drown out those of your national counterparts.

There are a few ways you can narrow your scope, and you'll find the most success in using a mix of all of them.

Narrow the Scope of Location

If your company provides residential services in several cities, you can focus your efforts by targeting a handful of neighborhoods while tailoring your advertisements specifically to them.

This is a successful tactic often used by real estate agents and referred to as farming.

By farming a few neighborhoods rather than covering an entire city, you can increase the frequency of ads you send to the residents in that neighborhood – which will increase your return per dollar spent on ads.

Narrowing your scope to a handful of neighborhoods also has a compounding effect when combined with word of mouth.

If your yard signs or trucks are always in a neighborhood, residents will be more inclined to use or inquire about your services.

Then, you can rely less on direct advertisements and more on word of mouth once you win a certain percentage of that neighborhood.

Narrow the Scope of Customers

There are several ways you can categorize customers (e.g. anticipated revenue, profitability, average time to close, requested service, homeowner vs renter, home size, demographics, etc.).

Targeting a specific scope or category of customer will allow you to adjust your messaging to appeal to that one type of customer – which will improve the success rate of your ads while making the most of your budget.

If you’re thinking “big picture,” you can even target a specific type of customer that will support your company’s growth strategy.

For example: Your company might need to achieve a greater cash flow, so you run a marketing campaign that targets customers needing services you know have a faster sales cycle or that can generate quicker returns.

Narrow the Scope of Marketing Channels

When you evaluate the marketing surface area of your national counterpart, you’ll see that they’re everywhere. They’re on Facebook. They’re on TV. They’re on billboards. They’re on all of it.

As we mentioned in a previous section, those companies have the funds to afford that widespread coverage regardless of whether it’s working.

Narrowing your marketing to 1 or 2 channels that you know generate strong returns will help you:

  • Achieve predictable results from that channel.

  • Invest money confidently in that channel.

  • Learn what works and what doesn’t with that channel.

  • Increase efficiency and effectiveness using that channel.

  • Reach the necessary spending level for that channel to be effective.

  • Prevent losing money and resources from ineffective channels.

Use Size to Your Advantage

Size can be a strength of the national brands but can also be a weakness, and your marketing strategy should exploit that weakness.

If you’ve spoken to enough customers who were unhappy with the services a national brand provided, then you already know their weaknesses.

Maybe it’s poorly trained staff, lack of communication, lagging responsiveness, inaccessibility, international call centers, poor customer service, etc.

Whatever their weakness is, your company should capitalize on it by ensuring that your size and locality allow you to offer what your national counterpart is lacking.

It’s important to note that this can be done without running smear campaigns where you directly call out your national competitor.

Sharpen Your Appearance on Digital Platforms

Since the dawn of time, consumers have based a huge majority of their opinion and trust on appearance. And in today’s digital world, consumers are judging companies based on their digital or online appearance.

When you look up any national brand in your industry, you’ll notice they’ve got plenty of original photos of their work and team on Google, on their social media pages, and on their website.

If you click onto their website, you’ll see a website with a modern design, quality photos, and maybe even video. And whether you view the website on your computer or on your phone, you’ll see that the website is easy to use regardless of the device you’re on.

This is what a sharp online appearance looks like. And contrary to popular belief, any local company can achieve it!

That’s right, you can go toe-to-toe with your national counterparts online by investing in your digital appearance.

It can start by investing $400-$700 to get professional photos taken of your work and team, then investing a couple thousand dollars into redesigning your website.

It seems like a huge investment, but the returns will far outweigh the cost.

Spruce Up Your Sales and Marketing Materials

If your company is in an industry that sells high ticket services such as residential or commercial design/build landscaping, floor covering installations, pool installations, etc.; then you probably have materials both print and digital that you send to potential customers.

These can take the form of brochures, case studies, portfolios, leave-behinds, flyers, market reports, etc.

If it has been a few years since you’ve had those materials made, then it’s time you have them updated.

Design styles and preferences change year by year, and though consumers are not graphic designers, they intuitively know when something is out of date.

By spending a few hundred dollars to update the information, photos, and designs in your marketing and sales materials, you can spruce up another aspect of your company’s appearance.

Just like improving your digital appearance, this is another step you can take to compete with your national counterpart without spending too much money.


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