The Internet is a competitive marketplace where global populations of consumers have the ability to choose from several different vendors. If you’re interested in buying a kite, you could easily find twenty reputable kite vendors online, so which do you choose? That’s where branding comes in—branding is one of the most important factors in a consumer’s decision of what to purchase and where. However, when your competition has ten or ten thousand times your advertising budget, how can your smaller organization compete with industry behemoths?

Brand Building for the Little Guy

Your businesses’ brand, which is a combination of your general appearance and reputation, is on the forefront of the mind of any customer considering doing business with you. Branding is in essence a way to give your business an identity for consumers to consider. So how do you go about creating one?

The first thing you have to do is put together a clear vision of what your brand is. Asking yourself some simple questions about your business can provide clues as to which direction to take. For instance, what are the benefits or features of the things you offer? What qualities would you like people to associate with your brand? These aren’t always merely questions of opinion; many of these questions are best answered by doing detailed customer research to better understand your audience. In the least case, it’s often useful to get an outside perspective on your brand or get an existing impression of your company from a friend as you go forward.

Once you have a clear understanding of what your brand is, you can begin to describe what the target demographics of your business are. These demographics naturally have to correspond to your image. (For instance, if your brand consists of more premium merchandise than bargain discounts, your branding will have to be reflected by that in order to resonate best with your intended audiences.) These things help people to form a perception of what your brand is that helps attract different demographics.

The Internet and Your Brand

While it’s important to take advantage of any of the unique qualities of your business, it’s also important to understand where you do fall short of bigger brands. Shipping time and cost are factors where small businesses struggle to compete; but no matter the problem, it can be overcome by branding. For instance, if you can’t compete with the costs of similar businesses, you can emphasize your wide selection or expertise to help distinguish your brand and give yourself a competitive edge.

As a small business it’s likely you’re competing with something with a much larger advertising budget. Consequently many small businesses have been focusing their marketing efforts on Internet-based advertising which produces powerful and easy to track ROI. Cost-per-click (CPC) advertising is an especially cost-effective means for marketing, not only because you only pay for actual clicks to your website, but also because your advertisements can be targeted to specific demographics—the demographics which you identified during your branding process.

Of course Internet marketing isn’t limited to advertising. Social media networking, viral marketing, e-mail marketing, blogs, and a great many more different avenues exist which offer perfectly level playing fields between businesses of any size. It costs virtually nothing and can take very little time to set up effective Facebook, Pinterest, and Google+ accounts, and it’s just as easy to find and target specific demographics within these networks. Your competition may have more advertising dollars to spend, but in the age of digital marketing, intelligence and persistence is quickly becoming more important than whether or not you can afford an advertisement on your local TV station.