Business development 6 December 2016

Competing against bigger brands – Five tips for small companies

Creative Nature has been able to hold its own amongst brands like Cadbury’s and Green & Blacks

Here, chief marketing officer at Worldpay and Business Advice contributor, James Frost, asks food entrepreneur Julianne Ponan how to stay punching above your weight when it comes to competing against bigger brands.

Superfood brand Creative Nature knows all about what it takes to become a successful ecommerce business. The venture has taken the superfoods market by storm since it burst onto the scene with current owner Julianne Ponan in 2013.

As the first superfood brand to be sold in one of the UK’s “Big Four” supermarkets, it’s been able to lead from the front in this new category, successfully competing against big name brands like Cadbury’s and Green & Blacks chocolates.

Although Ponan and her team are up against rivals which spend more on marketing campaigns than they turnover in a year, they’ve been able to use all their business sense and guile to not only survive but thrive.

This involves focusing on sourcing the highest quality and most ethical products possible from around the world. But there are many other ways smaller businesses can differentiate against their better resourced rivals.

“We have a far better return on our limited marketing spend than some of our competitors who can spend over £1m on a single campaign,” explained Ponan.

“We have a large network of bloggers who are constantly promoting our products online, something the bigger companies haven’t caught on to just yet.”

With that in mind, Ponan gave her advice for small business owners just starting out on how they can begin to build their company and brand.

(1) Choose the right team

When you’re recruiting, Ponan suggested making sure you do the interviews, or at least sit in on them as those are the people that are going to help you grow your business.

Try to focus on candidates you think will work well with the rest of the team, and the culture and personalities that you have on board.

“I recommend considering apprentices. You might not get the right fit immediately but they can be moulded according to your requirements. These are people that will obviously have less knowledge, but if you can train them, they will grow with your team” said Ponan.

(2) Build a web presence

Creative Nature have had issues with their website in the past and know from bitter experience that it’s one of the most important things to get right early on. Ponan advised that finding the right company to advise you in this area and help develop your website is key.

(3) Get your name out there

As a small business, it might not be possible to employ a full-time marketing manager, but it’s a good idea to seek out consultants who can share their expertise. Creative Nature has a consultant who works with the company on digital strategy and marketing budgets.

How to get the best use out of what little budget you have is particularly important when you’re just starting out.

An outside expert can help you better understand where you’re spending your marketing budget and tweak your strategy to make sure that money is funnelled into the right channels.

If you’re investing in pay per click advertising and SEO for example, make sure you’re getting the return on investment from that. Putting a lot of your marketing budget into the sales team might not work well depending on the sales team you have, for example.

Companies you work with should be able to create reports that are easy to understand, even if you’re not that tech savvy.

(4) Make check-out simple and secure

For Ponan, it’s vital that customers have a seamless check-out process on your website. “If you don’t then you can get a lot of abandoned carts, which amounts to needless lost sales. Ideally this fast, simple and secure check-out process needs to be relatively easy to implement.”

“Enhancing your site with payment card security and communicating this clearly to the customer is key because they can lose trust in your company.”

(5) Go overseas

With non-UK shoppers taking advantage of post-Brexit currency fluctuations to snap up a bargain, the time is ripe for businesses to make their mark overseas.

Worldpay’s own data revealed a 5.3 per cent increase in online foreign card spend in the month following the referendum, illustrating that careful, strategic thinking can enable businesses to reap benefits from the current changes and make their mark overseas.

Ponan commented: “We’re now focusing on exporting internationally and will hopefully be launching in Denmark soon. It is key for UK businesses to start trading overseas and the web massively lowers the barriers to entry for this.

There’s demand for your products out there – you just need to do your research to find out where. In fact, it can be easier than fighting for market share in the UK.

You can also use third-party specialists to help with your market research for you, like government department UK Trade & Investment.

James Frost is chief marketing officer at Worldpay

Social media prioritised over other Christmas marketing methods by smaller brands. 

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