9 ways growing businesses can outmaneuver the big guys

This is where the magic happens.
This is where the magic happens.
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It has long been true that small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) comprise the backbone of the American economy. They make up 99.7% of American companies, and employ 49% of all private-sector American workers. They are the key driver of economic growth. And growth is important for everyone—we live in an economic system that is built upon it.

But it’s getting harder for SMBs to compete in an ever-evolving and fraught environment. They must sell something of value, provide a great sales experience, offer exemplary after-sales service, recognize loyalty, and then do it all over again.

The good news is that providing a consummate customer experience is easier than you might think. In fact, here are nine steps your growing company can take to treat your customers right (and outmaneuver your competition while you’re at it).

1. Define your target market

At some point you must decide who and what your company is. As much as you might want to, you can’t sell to everyone. You have to focus on your target customer. Once you find your market, jump on your sales opportunities and sell, sell, sell. Partner with other companies that offer complementary services. Most importantly, leverage your business’s current small size and flexibility to quickly adapt to changing markets.

2. Maximize all available sales channels

You need to be micro-moment ready. When a customer is ready to buy, it doesn’t matter if they’re on their computer, smartphone, or in a store—you need to make the sales experience as easy, quick, and comfortable as possible. Tools, like Oracle Commerce Cloud, can provide you with a low-cost, effective way to deliver a personalized shopping experience that matches one that customers might get from a call center, a catalog, or a store. And who doesn’t love an easy shopping experience?

3. Embrace emerging technology

The one constant of technology is that it never stops evolving. As tools like chatbots and artificial intelligence (AI) become incorporated into current software, your business can start to stand out in a crowded field of competitors. Chatbots can help you engage in natural conversations with customers, without the overhead of having a large customer support staff. And AI can help you make sense of your data, pulling out the insights that matter. Your customers will never know if they are interacting with a company of 500 or 50,000 employees.

4. Offer great customer service

Service has always been the bedrock of successful businesses. Customers want to feel valued as much as they want any product or service, and they are willing to pay more for that value. If your business can offer great customer service, people will be more willing to forgive mistakes, buy more often, try new products, and become brand advocates—in person or across social media.

5. Build a loyal fan base

Studies have shown that acquiring a new customer is five to 25 times more expensive than retaining a current one. The math is simple—if your current customers feel good, you’ll see more profits. Thank them for their business, help them with problems when they arise, and reward  them intermittently. With tools like Oracle Loyalty Cloud, you can build a loyalty program that helps you understand the variances within your customer base, letting you reward their loyalty in personalized ways that truly resonate.

6. Offer a steadfast guarantee

If you’re confident in your firm’s product, offer a guarantee. It could be overnight shipping, free returns, or a multi-year warranty. When an upstart delivery company was trying to establish itself as a major player in the 1970’s, a slogan shouted their commitment. ”When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight” defined their marketing efforts, and they backed it up in their business practices. By the early 1980’s, they had outmaneuvered their competition (who resorted to competing solely on price), reaching $1 billion in revenue within a decade of their inception.

7. Improve efficiency and leverage your agility

Keep improving your operations. Can you automate tedious work? Can you get products to market faster? Can you make sure customer data is visible across all business areas? The bigger you get, the harder it is to improve efficiency. Embrace the natural agility that comes with smaller size, but grow smart. Once you reach three to four layers of titles between the customer-facing employee and the executive suite, you are probably dealing with slow manual processes, an over dependence on tribal knowledge, and mistakes. Technology can scale. People cannot.

8. Keep your focus on growth

Think big, and look towards the future at all times. Don’t skimp on software or employees—what might seem like prudent cost savings at the time will hurt your growth long-term. Hire teams with the skills your growing company needs to succeed, and implement integrated, scalable software solutions in the nascent stages of your business. Don’t focus on only solving the problem staring you in the face. Look at how the solution will impact you three to five years down the road. Making the right decisions early will save you time, money, and countless headaches later.

9. Get the right software

As your business grows, software will be the cornerstone of all your operations. Integrated software solutions, like Oracle’s CX Cloud, allow fast-growing SMBs to centralize essential data in the cloud, giving all teams access to information they can trust and providing the insights they need to drive the right decisions. Whether you need to close more deals, build a larger loyal customer base, or provide customers with easy ways to engage with your brand, Oracle can help you propel your business forward by providing a flawless customer experience that boosts customer lifetime value (CLV), quarter after quarter, and year after year.

This article was produced on behalf of Oracle by Quartz Creative and not by the Quartz editorial staff.