The easiest solution is rarely the best. Conventional wisdom would suggest you want to go with the most popular option when looking into buying equipment, services, or supplies. However, the richest treasure is buried, and you need to dig it up.
In times of economic uncertainty like this, it is wise to want to avoid risk and go with products with a consistent experience. You can’t afford to be wrong if you are struggling to make revenue. This is a tried and true adage for any business.
With services, however, the rules are vastly different. Brands can rely on their equity to get you to come back. Just as you would abandon a commodity product for a lower price, you should consider services the same way. Products are based on engineering and materials. The quality of the materials can differ from region to region, and their method of manufacture holds a reliable consistency based on the published process. Services are done by humans; it is the single factor that makes them the best or worst as a category.
Tons of successful companies started during a recession because they know how to survive, and they know survival depends on their customers. With a small, growing business, every customer matters—even the bad ones. If you look at the companies with the worst customer service, chances are they are huge. Their success brought them scale, and their scale brought bureaucracy. Bureaucracy is what kills the customer experience and eventually kills the business.
That’s great, but what’s the point?
The point is businesses are desperate to survive, and only the best should—the ones that spend time on their customer experience so they can earn your dollars.
Take advantage of cheap human capital
According to the US Census Bureau, applications for new businesses are up 38.7% over last year and have been rising steadily since 2011. NPR calls it a “Startup Boom.” Economists call it Creative Destruction. There’s a simpler idea behind it—people need to eat. They need to take care of their families; they need to pay the rent. Entrepreneurship is at its highest level ever.
Do you know what that means? Companies will fight to earn your business and give the best service. And they usually have no way of letting people know they exist because they are just starting out and probably have very little for a marketing budget.
What can you do?
Like I said above, you need to dig a little. Find real gems in areas where you least expect it. Your entrenched players in equipment, software, supplies, etc., have marketing money for search engine optimization (SEO), paid social media campaigns, and large tradeshow booths. They can afford to find you, and they will be more expensive to get that investment back. They will likely give you good customer service and a return on your investment. But they may not be fanatically dedicated to your satisfaction. New businesses will be trying all kinds of new ways to compete. Some actionable steps to try when looking for the little guys who want to serve you:
- Subscribe to digital newsletters, and click through all the links.
- Try the 3rd or 4th page of search results. Million Short is an example of a search engine portal that eliminates up to 1,000,000 search results to get to the organic listings for newly formed companies that just got a webpage for Google to crawl.
- Smaller companies have no money for ads or SEO, but they exist, and they are focusing their resources on providing the best service.
- Go to tradeshows, virtual or other, and don’t forget to browse the entire hall. Don’t skip the smaller booths.
- Read trade magazines and look for smaller ads with exciting ideas.
History has shown that one of two things happens with these small, recession-based companies:
- They become the next big thing.
- They get bought out by well-known brands, and their solutions get integrated.
You have the chance to take advantage of the chaos now and get in on a great deal at a great price. You’ll also be supporting small businesses and helping grow the local economy.
Dig a little, and you’ll be amazed at what you find.