How to make a small business look gigantic

These services will help tiny firms compete with the big guys on customer service, marketing and more

 

The Frictionless Office

It’s always been challenging for small businesses to compete with big-box chains and giant corporations. And while the Internet allows even one-person operations to compete for business against multinationals, it’s still easy to get lost amid all the noise. Fortunately, a host of online tools now allow the tiniest operation to look and feel bigger.

TrafficSoda, based in Waterloo, ON, is among those companies that wants to help put smaller businesses on even footing with larger rivals by building their “off-page” search engine optimization (SEO). They boost website traffic by ranking better with Google and other search engines. Businesses can expend a lot of effort building their sites according to the latest SEO techniques, but without other sources linking to them it may not be enough. TrafficSoda works with clients to determine who their rivals are, and then build better links from other websites and social media so that they show up higher in search results. The company is focused on clients that don’t have their own marketing staff keeping up with the latest trends. It’s essentially like outsourcing SEO. “We love working with businesses whose website is like a billboard in the middle of the desert,” says chief executive Jessica Chalk. “We love taking that website from the middle of nowhere to Times Square.”

For companies focused on a very specific geographic market, TrafficSoda charges around $250 a month for its services. For a more national or global scale, its services start around $1,000.

Small businesses also often have trouble finding and attracting the right talent, especially when pitted against bigger and better-paying competitors—which is where Plum aims to help. The company, also based in Waterloo, provides web-based aptitude quizzes to vet job applicants. Rather than concentrating on skills, Plum’s psychological tests focus on assessing attitudes and personalities. Prospective candidates answer online questions and those who meet a business’s predetermined criteria get their resumes added to a shortlist. Company founder Caitlin MacGregor says up to 89% of failed hires flame out because of personality clashes. Large businesses can often swallow such mis-hires, but they can be exceptionally costly for smaller operations. “Plum allows small businesses access to cutting-edge behavioural science that has traditionally been reserved for big business,” MacGregor says. “Now, small businesses can affordably screen candidates and match them to their unique role and company culture.”

Plum costs $195 (U.S.) a month for companies making up to 12 hires a year, scaling up to $745 for 48 hires and $2,195 for 200.


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