“Dream big,” they tell you, “aim high!” – so you do. You look up to these multi-million-pound companies and hope that you can get there one day. However, this can be a real waste of your important small business (and dreaming) time.
Looking at what other businesses are up to is brilliant for competitor research and inspiration – it can help with:
- Styling & creative inspiration – collecting screenshots and other images that you like and that fit your small business’ aesthetic can help you hone your branding as well as spark new ideas. Pinterest is a great place to store all this visual inspiration.
- Optimising user experience – by seeing what works on other websites, you can design your website to work with human behaviour. We like things a certain way (like the main menu sitting at the top or left of a page, for example) and using other websites can help you decipher what works, and what doesn’t.
- Price points – looking at what similar small businesses charge for products is really important to help you work out what your price range will be. Make sure to factor in any unique selling points you have.
- Pushing boundaries – pushing your small business to grow is great. Take note of what other companies are doing and tone it down to your small business level.
The high street as a direct competitor
But what if you’re a small business looking up to giant corporations as direct competitor? This just doesn’t make sense, as you can’t compare your small team & limited budget to what they have. They’ve got the ability to be extremely well researched, and have an in-house team of workers to implement every aspect of the business.
We decided to have a little look at an example of how much gets churned out when you’ve got the money to get it done. We chose lovely clothing brand Monki, took a look at their social media and new in section, and compared it to a week later. Have a look at what we found.
A week of Monki
50+ new items to the online store
Listing products on an ecommerce website is not a quick job, especially to hit the high standard of highstreet favourite, Monki. Over a seven day period, we spotted over 50 new items added to the Monki website, each with up to five product and model photos.
We’ve estimated how much time this would take on a really, really good day – to give you an idea of what goes in to this level of content management.
|Photography||20 minutes per picture, roughly 1 hour per product||50 hours|
|Photo editing||20 minutes per picture, roughly 1 hour per product||50 hours|
|Writing the product description||30 minutes per product||25 hours|
|Adding the new product using the content management system||30 minutes per product||25 hours|
|Website total||150 hours|
13 new Instagram posts (not including stories)
Again, photographs need to be shot (20 mins) & edited (20 mins), or sourced (30 mins + many of these are customers’ photos, so they would have to ask permission – 20 mins), the caption needs to be written (20 mins). Let’s estimate that each post takes about an hour = 13 hours work.
12 new Facebook posts
Photos again (40 mins to shoot & edit), or videos (1 hour)/graphics created specifically (30 min), short links created, and caption written (20 mins) = approximately 13 hours work.
8 new Twitter posts
As above, approximately 9 hours work.
None of this includes any replies or other interactions, and doesn’t even factor in the time of supervisors, creative directors and other roles, but you get the idea.
This works out at 185 hours a week, just on social media and updating new products. There’s literally not that many hours in a week, and is the equivalent of working 24 8-hour days – so basically a full a month.
It’s not achievable for a small business
Looking at all this activity as a small business owner can feel overwhelming, thinking you need to keep up with this pace to be successful. But let’s think about it logically: chances are it’s only you, or a few members in your team, and you have to cover all the roles your small business needs to keep going. There’s no way that you could create that much social media content and add so many new products to your site, alongside all the day-to-day tasks that your small business requires. It’s just not feasible, and judging your business against one with a massive budget is only going to have a negative effect.
You simply cannot execute the same level of marketing campaign on your own. You don’t have the time, money, or resources. And that’s totally ok!
Hopefully you already have a business plan, with your own goals that are tailored to your small business. Comparing yourself to the wrong brands can make you doubt whether you’re on the right track.
It is possible to stick to your own lane while taking inspiration from larger, well established companies – maybe you like the way they do their email marketing, or the aesthetic of their Instagram – these small elements can give you an idea of what you want to do to improve your small business, but you can scale it down to your level. Inspiration can help us move in the right direction, hone our style, and spark ideas, but we shouldn’t get bogged down in it OR directly copy what another brand is doing.
Take a look at your direct competition – other indie brands in the same line of business as you – and do a bit of smart competitor research.
Some questions for your brand
• What do they/we offer that’s different? – for example, your focus might be on creating ethical products, or sourcing locally.
• Who is their/our audience? – maybe your target market is over 30 years old, and maybe their products are aimed at teenagers.
• What do they/we do well? – perhaps their photography is clearer, but your copy is written beautifully and succinctly.
• What could they/we do better? – could you invest in better photography or professional website design?
By doing this you can discern what’s working for your small business, and where you could improve, without getting off track. You’ll come up with a manageable list of valuable tasks to complete and develop in a way that is true to your lovely indie brand.