You can hardly open a newspaper or turn on the TV these days without noticing somebody crabbing about Wal-Mart.
Now they’re going after Starbucks.
Penny Stafford, owner of the Seattle-based Belvi Coffee and Tea Exchange Inc., charges in a federal lawsuit that the coffee giant uses anti-competitive tactics to rid itself of competition. The suit, which seeks class-action status, says Starbucks used methods such as having employees offer free drink samples in front of her store to lure away customers, which she says ultimately forced her to close her store.
Starbucks, the suit said, also offered to pay leases that exceeded market value if a building owner would refuse to allow competitors from occupying their buildings.
That got me thinking.
If I were a David who competed against the Goliaths like Wal-Mart, Target, Starbucks, Lowe’s or Home Depot, I’d pitch business reporters with a story on what I offer that the giants can’t.
—A mom and pop hardware store in Wisconsin sends hand-written “Congratulations” notes to people in their town who are promoted, receive awards or get straight As, along with a special discount coupon that must be redeemed by a certain date. The owners read the local newspaper each week to find out who’s doing what.
—Is your corner coffee shop the place where everybody knows your name? And you know theirs? Do you have a playroom in the corner for kids whose parents just want to relax over a cuppa joe?
—Do you offer “personal shoppers?” Some food stores invite customers who are shopping for a party or hard-to-find items to call ahead, then have an employee waiting for them when the customer arrives at the store.
—Do you send holiday greeting cards to your most loyal customers?
—A small hardware store sends “Happy Birthday” cards–not to its customers, but to its customers’ lawn mowers and other equipment. The cards include a reminder that it might be time to have the equipment cleaned or brought in for regular maintenance. The store has the warranty cards on file and knows exactly when the customers bought the merchandise.
I’ll bet many of you who compete against the Goliaths do other cool things that business reporters would love to know about. Why not round up several other Davids in your town and jointly approach the small-business reporter at your local newspaper, business journal or TV station? In your pitch, mention the David & Goliath angle.
Business journals would love this story, and they’re some of the easiest newspapers to get into, but only if you know the inside tricks like how to get you or your boss in front of the top business journal staff members, or the most popular special sections that are waiting for your ideas.
For example, Paul Furiga, a former business journal editor who I interviewed for a CD and electronic transcript we created called “How to Use Business Journals to Tell Your Story,” says Publicity Hounds should attend after-work events that are sponsored by business journals because many business journal editors and reporters often attend, and it’s a great way to meet them.