Unless you sell a product that's uniquely yours, you have competition. Competition used to mean businesses similar to yours but, thanks to the internet, your suppliers have thrown their hat into the ring. Those big corporations whose products you carry have deep pockets...money to throw at glossy ad campaigns featuring expensive models or costly incentives to get your customers to click their "like" button. Will your customer's attention be drawn by the lowest price? By a hot celeb sporting the item on the red carpet? How do you differentiate yourself in this crowd? How do you keep your customer coming back? More importantly, what will get your customer to recommend you to his friends?
The question to ask is what sets you apart from your competition? The answer will likely be something the national brands and major internet retailers don't even have a shot at...relationships and personal service. If the product is the same across retailers, the difference is you. Capitalize on that. Of course, you want to talk about your product. While doing so, be sure to highlight why buying it from you is a better idea. If you have valet parking, post a photo of a customer being escorted to your door in a downpour, covered by an umbrella.
You've worked hard to create a community around the service you provide. You welcome your client by name, ask about the kids, make suggestions based upon things you know about her life. The next step is to encourage that community to live and grow online. The very best way for the small to mid-sized business owner to gain an edge over the national brands is to think small, granular...regardless of how big you get. Your community is the best place to start. The next time a client asks you to support his favorite charity, connect with that charity on Facebook and Twitter and ask that, instead of an old-fashioned letter of thanks for your contribution, might they consider thanking you as a post on their wall.
When you decided to open your small to mid-sized business, you never thought you'd have to compete with your suppliers but, thanks to the internet, that's become a reality. Level the playing field by focusing on what you do best...personal service, attention to detail, your sense of style, or whatever it is that sets you apart. Celebrate the fact that your customers rave about your House Blend when there's a Starbucks in every zip code.