Small is good, big is bad — and your customers want small to win. That’s the takeaway from a recent study, titled “Positioning Brands Against Large Competitors to Increase Sales.”

The researchers, professors from Georgetown and Harvard Universities, say that highlighting a large competitor’s size and close proximity can help brands rather than harm them. They even go so far as to say that “support for small brands goes up when faced with a competitive threat from large brands ….” The study shows that the support is more than just words, but translates into real purchases.

Use this information to kick start your 2015 marketing plan, keeping these three strategies in mind:

1. Be visible.

2. Promote your “faces.”

3. Make your customer feel part of your success.

First, customers can’t choose you over a big box if they don’t know you exist. For instance, in my own community, I’ve driven past one dealership many, many times. Yet, until just recently, I couldn’t name what brands they carried or even the official name of the dealership because they weren’t adequately promoting with visible signage. Dealerships, especially those in larger communities, should assume that they are invisible to customers and work hard to change that.

Second, the “choose small” works best when customers are able to put a person they know up against the faceless corporate entity. This strategy starts with you. You have to be visible not only in your dealership, but in the community. If you’re already serving on local boards or volunteering for area non-profits, keep it up and promote that outreach on your websites, in social media and in your stores. If it’s been awhile since you participated, the new year is a great time to start. Find ways to encourage your employees to contribute in the community as representatives of the dealership. For instance, consider doing a community outreach project on company time. Conversely, big box employees stay in the “box.” When they finish their shift, anything they do in the community is because they choose to do so on their own.

Third, give your customers some sense of ownership in your dealership’s success. For instance, tell them that you’ve had a record year or reached some milestone, thanks to them and despite new big boxes moving in. Promote that your service team has earned new certifications, which makes them better qualified to work on your machines — a key advantage over big boxes. Give them a sneak preview of improvements you’re planning or new models that they’ll find only in your store.

The small vs. big research can be a great foundation for success in 2015, but it’s only a start. Make sure you’re delivering on the promise that an independent dealership is the best choice — and the best overall value for their dollar.