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How Small Businesses Can Compete With Big Brands Without Spending A Penny

How Small Businesses Can Compete With Big Brands Without Spending A Penny

. 4 min read

Whether you are a start-up business or you simply work in a small niche with little opportunity to grow, it is likely that you face competition from well-established brands within your sector.

These brands often dominate when it comes to driving traffic, either through organic or paid channels and this can be daunting for small businesses to tackle.

It can often feel like an impossible task. You simply don’t have the budgets and resources to challenge these well-known brands and the landscape for increasing your brand awareness may seem bleak, however, fear not; there are plenty of things you can do that won’t cost you a penny (except for time and hard work).

Getting your startup noticed online

In order to build your brand awareness and drive more online traffic, you need to invest your time into the right channels. With limited budgets, using expensive paid channels like Google Adwords can quickly drain any marketing budget you have, without delivering any actual results. It’s also a very short-term tactic.

Instead, focus on the areas that are likely to deliver long-term ROI (return on investment). Sure, they might not deliver immediate results, however, investing time and resources into search engine optimisation (SEO) and social media can really make a difference to your online visibility in the long run.

A recent article by expertEasy founder Darren Sherwood identified brand identity and SEO as two key areas for any startup business and those are two areas that don’t need to cost the earth.

What is SEO?

If you have never heard of SEO, in simple terms, it means the process of improving your site to increase its visibility for relevant searches. Those searches mainly carried out on Google, are focusing on the organic results, not the paid listings. As of February 2021, Google continues to maintain a 92% market share in terms of organic search.

Your goal is to create content that is better matched to the keywords that people are searching for than the content that already ranks in that space, with many experts saying you should aim to create content that is 10x better than the existing content.

Creating content doesn’t have to cost you money. There are lots of free tools out there that will help you to research the keywords people are searching for. It’s then up to you to create a piece of content that best answers that search query (and is relevant to your own products and services).

Your keyword research needs to identify the most relevant keywords for your business. If you sell TVs for example, there is not much point in creating great content around sports equipment. Even if you created an awesome piece of content that ranked well, people would land on your site and quickly bounce back off when they realise your site has nothing to do with sports equipment.

If you do have a small amount of budget to spend, we would recommend engaging an SEO agency from the beginning who will be able to carry out a technical audit, content audit, and keyword research for your site and identify potential opportunities for improvement. From there, you can then choose to work through those opportunities yourself if you have the skill and expertise within your team.

Social media channels

Another free channel and a great way to raise awareness of your brand is social media. According to a recent article, over 80% of all Australians are now using social media and it’s estimated that there are 3 billion users worldwide on one platform or another.

Not only is social media a cost-effective way of reaching a huge audience, locally and further afield, it is also a great platform for building authentic relationships with your customers and prospective customers.

Social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, Twitter and Snapchat all give you a direct line of communication to your customers, allowing you to talk to them one-on-one. When done well, this is a great way to build your brand affinity and provide a high level of customer service. When done poorly, it can have a seriously negative impact on your brand so play it safe.

Don’t try and be everywhere all at once. Understand the platforms your audience are most likely to be using and build up slowly. If you jump in and create profiles on every social media platform all at once, you are unlikely to be able to manage them all properly and this just leads to a frustrating experience for your customers.

Learn from the leading brands

Whilst you are going to be competing against some huge global brands through both organic and social channels, don’t ignore what they are doing - there is plenty you can learn from them.

If you work with an SEO agency, they will be able to carry out a competitor audit for you and identify the things your main competitors are doing well and where there are gaps. If you are doing things yourself, there are plenty of resources available to help you to pull out competitive insights and maximise your own opportunities by learning from the best.

Lululemon is renowned as one of the most engaging brands on social media and their lifestyle marketing tactics have earned them enormous brand recognition. They maximise the impact of their social media platforms to engage with their audience and encourage user-generated content through engaging campaigns that aim to inspire.

Online casino Betway uses a combination of search engine optimisation, content marketing, and social media in order to gain an edge in a competitive marketplace. Instead of simply providing odds on a variety of sporting events, Betway is on a mission to “provide quality betting insights” with “the most informed betting tips of any online media outlet”. This commitment to content and social media promotion has seen them grow rapidly since they were formed in 2006.

Patagonia is another brand to have embraced the power of social media and they actively encourage their customers to ‘buy less, demand more in a move to protect the planet and cut down on waste - a message that really resonates with their audience.

These are just a handful of examples of tactics you can use to grow your startup online. Not all marketing tactics have to cost the earth. Work out which ones are the best fit for your business and put your efforts into making those the best they can be. With a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck, you will find yourself competing with the big brands without it breaking the bank.


Part of the expertEasy writing team, Laura is from the UK and has a keen interest in Business, interior design and decor, home improvement and thriftiness in all things around the house and garden.