I was recently asked by Linda of Florida: I live in a rural area and don't have the same benefits that some of my competitors in big cities have. What can I do to stay competitive without having to move to a more urban environment?
Below are answers from the Young Entrepreneur Council, a nonprofit organization that provides young entrepreneurs with access to tools, mentorship, community and educational resources that support each stage of their business’s development and growth.
1. Be a big fish
One of the benefits of living in a smaller locality is that you can easily become a big fish, albeit in a small pond. Take advantage of this by knowing everyone, making strong connections and using your home town as a launch pad to more populace and difficult environments.
2. Use the Internet to reach a wider audience
The beauty of having a solid online business presence is that geographical borders don't matter as much; you don't even need a big budget—what you need is time. Get Internet savvy. You can find new customers, better service existing ones and offer new products/services. The Internet can help you level the playing field without having to re-locate.
3. No barriers to compete with the best
With today's resources, it doesn't matter where you're located. Between Skype, Twitter, Facebook and other resources, there's nothing holding you back from competing with the best and the brightest. In today's world, it's more about your mentality towards competition rather than what you don't have.
4. Use Skype to the fullest
It's no secret that the more communication you have with someone, the easier it is to form a strong relationship. If you can't meet people in person, do the next best thing and hop on a video Skype call. You'll form a more meaningful relationship with those you can't see in person, and can form the basis for future growth.
5. Awesome website? Doesn't matter if you live on a farm
Since networking or face-to-face meetings probably aren't accessible, your Web presence is going to be the biggest factor in clients noticing you. Be current, fresh, don't use long-loading flash, have big call-to-action buttons and easy and engaging copy. Don't try to out-Google Google. Display your assets and do so in a way that enhances your brand through strong design. Testimonials are key!
You have a huge benefit over competitors who live in big cities: focus and attention. The reason I moved to Greenwich instead of Manhattan was precisely for this reason. Although there aren't many young people around me, I am entirely focused on my business and clients. If I were in NYC, my attention would be more scattered. Take advantage of this opportunity and the extra time you have in a rural environment.
7. Leverage your location
In rural areas, you can always find diamonds in the rough in terms of talent, plus since people in rural areas demand lower salaries, you can save yourself a nice penny and still be competitive with some of the best brains without breaking the bank. Not every smart, talented individual wants to move to the city and make it big. They'd rather stay rural and still find success.
8. Get to know everyone
The great thing about living in a small town is that it's easier to build communities within it. The people are usually friendlier and want to help people like you. Do your best to get to know every person, business and city official in your area. Their support will trump any advantages that living in a big city supposedly has.
9. Make rural your back story
Having a unique background and personal story for your customers and clients is an underemphasized facet to standing out. Many clients and customers also prefer rural over urban environments. Showcase this on your company About page so potential clients who are on the same wavelength can appreciate your grass roots sense of purpose. Many clients who are from smaller towns appreciate this.
10. Look at the leaders in your area
Chances are there are companies in your rural area that are leading the marketplace in an industry other than yours. Look to them, those who do not compete in the urban environment. If they have strategies that work for their products and services, chances are pretty good that they will work for you also. Don't reinvent the wheel, use what is working for others.
11. Build up your area
Even in rural areas, you likely have a few neighbors interested in building up their businesses. Work with them to benefit all of you and your area. With a broader approach than you might otherwise take, you can bring more total business to your area, benefiting everyone around with a business.
12. Always be networking
Regardless of the size of your local community, you can always be connecting with other professionals, colleagues and customers. The advantage of a smaller community is that you have a greater chance of really getting to know everybody and growing your business that way.
13. High speed Internet
High speed Internet makes your location irrelevant. I am writing this from a beautiful cave villa in Santorini, Greece, but I researched my hotel ahead of time and the Internet works great! Embrace the Internet—it just allowed you to live and work from anywhere in the world.
14. Network in the urban environment
Just because you don't live in a big city doesn't mean you can't visit a big city. The only advantage to being in a big city is the networking opportunities. Go to events and conferences in the big city, meet people and forge new relationships.
15. Carefully design your brand
The Internet makes your location somewhat irrelevant, but increases the importance of your brand or "persona." It's important to decide whether your audience will appreciate your small-town location or look down on it, and then market yourself accordingly. This choice should be reflected in the design and wording of your marketing and may include paying for a mailbox at an urban office building.
16. Team-up to clean-up
Join your local Chamber of Commerce. This will give you an opportunity to network with business minded people who face the same hurdles you do. You will be able to learn from their ideas and collaborate together to devise new plans to beat back the big city competitors.
17. Lower your pricing and specials
What you do have is a lower standard of living, which means you can afford to offer lower prices to buyers in urban cities. Your lower pricing will always keep you more competitive-especially in a recession. As long as your quality is the same as others in big cities, but your prices are cheaper, you’re golden.
18. Play up what makes you different
Being in a big city can be a negative as well. Play up your small-town brand and customer relationships. Be a big fish in your small pond and don't worry about the headaches and competition of business in the big city. Also, use social media and e-mail marketing to reach their customers.
19. Small town with a big voice
I have experienced the same thing and you have to put that aside and jump in and give 110 percent. Yes, some may have more advantages or contacts in the big city, but they are not you. If you are proud of your business and know that you have something to offer, then just go for it—whether it's in your town or online. Raise your voice and be you.