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The Green Sheet Online Edition

July 24, 2017 • Issue 17:07:02

Being small is a competitive advantage

By Mike Ackerman
DigiPay Solutions Inc.

We're living in super-sized times, surrounded by super ISOs and mega acquirers with millions to spend on marketing and technology. Imagine what you could do with half their money. Then imagine paying millions in payroll, telecom and compliance fees. Being big is a blessing and a curse. You have celebrity status as a global brand, but the stuff you built can get old and weigh you down. While you're propping up your legacy technology, tiny startups are running circles around you.

Offered a choice between David and Goliath, most people would choose David. Why? It's exciting to face big challenges. How can you, a small business owner, go head to head with a big competitor? Like David, you must be flexible, nimble and learn to do more with less. Following are ways to sharpen your aim and leverage your slingshot.

  • Specialize: Become an expert in a specific area. You cannot be all things to all merchants. That's why it's important to develop your area of expertise.
  • Know your market: Research and identify your core customers and create an exceptional customer experience.
  • Find your differentiator: Decide what you can do to be exceptional and demonstrate how you can deliver that difference.
  • Get to know your merchants/prospects: Without your merchants, you don't exist. Read your customer service email requests and participate in calls. These are places where your larger competitors lose sight.
  • Build relationships: When your portfolio is small, you can build true relationships with merchants. Visit local retailers processing with you. Stay in touch. Learn what they really want from you. If you can't chat in person, call them. Remember, staff members who work directly with merchants don't always have access to decision makers; communication can get lost in the chain of command.
  • React quickly: Big ISOs/acquirers are known for moving slowly. As a nimble small business, you can pivot. Rather than fighting through layers of management, policies, and politics, you can react quickly to both success and failure.
  • Innovate: Constantly test new ideas, from product offerings to delivery models to marketing campaigns. It's harder for big companies, weighed down by bureaucracy, to test new ideas. You have the flexibility to do it quickly and easily. Relying on data to gauge success is your best path to innovation.

Small merchants are powerful, too

Small merchants have shown a remarkable ability to execute quickly to compete in crowded markets. I think of the power of small merchants every time I eat at Rosanna's. Of the five coffee shops within a block of our office, it's our company favorite. What makes it special? The owner and her daughters know all their repeat customers' names, source only quality food and support our local community. Their business model revolves around giving back. Buying food from them, instead of a big chain, makes me feel like I'm doing some good in the world. How's that for a differentiator?

Outrun the big dogs

Our industry is replete with small companies that have disrupted big organizations. I recall working for a small company that had no marketing department and just one cash advance company as a value-added service. A $1 billion printing company was stealing our agents.

I was just in sales, but saw an opportunity, and my company was willing to give me a shot. We switched gears and adjusted our marketing strategy, adding five more cash advance offerings and 20 additional vendors to our value-added solutions portfolio. Then we created a new logo with vibrant colors on tradeshow shirts and business cards to create a one-stop branding platform. We not only won back our agents, we grabbed a lot of market share, too.

Believe in yourself

Small size can be a big asset. Embrace your entrepreneurial spirit, and do the things big players can't. When David faced Goliath, he brought only laser-like focus and good aim. When you create unforgettable, personalized experiences for customers, you build loyalty and trust as well as a profitable book of business. Don't worry about what others do. Just worry about what you do. If you follow this, you will surely succeed. end of article

Mike Ackerman is President of DigiPay Solutions Inc., which specializes in high-risk, high-volume, card-not-present and business-to-business merchant services. Contact him at mike@digipaysolutions.com.

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