Small businesses compete by being nimble…and tech savvy

I love, love, love this article I just read about how a local coffee shop owner used social media savvy and a little spunk to compete with Starbucks. In summary, the article tells the story of a small coffee shop that began using Twitter to communicate with customers, meet their needs directly, promote the business and, as a result, chalk-up a big win against the coffee giant Starbucks. I won’t retell the entire story in this post, but I highly suggest you read the article, especially if you have a special place in your heart for small businesses like I do. …or if you just don’t like Starbucks.

The moral of the story is that small businesses, if they are true to themselves and really know who they are and what they do best, CAN compete with the big guys. The advantage small businesses have is the ability to be nimble and personal in their communications with customers. In the article mentioned above, the little-coffee-shop-that-could, Groundz, was able to not only Tweet about promotions and specials. They could also reply directly to customer Tweets and be responsive to their requests. Starbucks couldn’t do that. There’s no possible way Starbucks could respond to even a small percentage of the Tweets to and about them. In fact, in this article, the owner of the Starbucks near Groundz couldn’t even put up a fight against the success Groundz was acheiving because, as the article put it, “He could not tweet back in competition, because Starbucks, being big and branded, controls what is tweeted and those tweets go out of headquarters in Seattle rather than coffee shops in Houston. Starbucks is too big to respond to a local move.”

Small businesses are really beginning to leverage social media, which is great. According to three years of industry surveys conducted by Social Media Examiner, social media has moved from an “uncertain strategy” in 2009 to a “permanent fixture” in 2010 and is finally considered a “primary tool” in 2011. This year’s survey revealed that almost 90% of small business owners and self-employed professionals strongly agreed that no one has benefitted more from social media than small businesses.

As someone who has worked for several small businesses and personally prefers to buy from small businesses, this is what I love to see. How about you?

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