How Small Businesses Can Compete with Big Brands in 2021

How Small Businesses Can Compete with Big Brands in 2021

  • Is it possible to compete with big brands that have substantial marketing budgets? The short answer is yes – but you'll need to put the work in.
  • While it may seem daunting (or perhaps impossible), there are several things you can do to gain exposure and compete with your bigger rivals.
  • The key is to capitalise on areas big brands may have overlooked, focus your efforts on local SEO and take inspiration from big brands to optimise your web design and content. 
  • In this article, we explore three things that can help your business compete with big brands.

If you’re a small local business competing against major multinational brands, you might be wondering how you can compete with companies who have multi-million dollar advertising and marketing budgets.

The key to success is not to try and go head to head with them. That’s a battle that very few small businesses can win.

It's important to pick your battles.

What are the areas where you can compete? What opportunities are the big brands overlooking? What can you learn from the great things big brands are doing well that you can apply to your own business?

How to Compete with Big Brands 

If you want to compete with big brands, here are some of the key things you need to do:

  1. Identify keyword opportunities 
  2. Think local
  3. Take inspiration from the best brands

1. Identify Keyword Opportunities

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is an area that all businesses should focus on, big or small. If you want your website to be discovered, at some point you are going to have to rely on Google – and with a much smaller advertising budget than your big rivals. It’s important for you to focus on organic traffic.

The challenge here is that the big brands are also working on their own SEO and targeting a huge range of keywords that are relevant to your business. The key for you is to identify the keywords they are ignoring.

A mistake big brands tend to make is only focussing on the highest volume keywords – the ones that drive the most searches on Google. This gives you an opportunity to optimise your website for lower volume, high intent keywords. These tend to be long-tail keywords (keyword searches that contain three or more words) and whilst the search volumes are much lower, people searching for keywords like this are usually further down the conversion funnel and more likely to make a purchase. 

Let’s say you sell trainers. There is a huge difference in search volume between people that search for ‘nike trainers’ and those who search for ‘womens nike air pegasus zoom size 8’. By the time people are searching the second query, they have already done their research and are now at the stage of finding the best price for that particular trainer, which is a great opportunity to rank well and make a sale.

Identify the long-tail keywords in your particular sector. There are some great tools you can use that are both free and paid including Google’s own Keyword Planner Tool.

Related post: SEO Best Practices for 2021

2. Think Local

A subsection of SEO that has become incredibly important for smaller businesses is local SEO. According to Moz, “Local SEO is all about increasing search visibility for businesses that serve their communities face-to-face. These can be brick-and-mortar businesses with physical locations, like a grocery store or dentist's office, or service-area businesses that operate throughout a certain geographic area, like an electrician or house cleaning company.”

Local SEO can sometimes be ignored by big brands and, more often the case, local businesses can do a better job of optimising their website for the local audience. Let’s say you’re an independent pizza takeout located in Erskineville, a central Sydney suburb. Who is likely to know the local customer base better – the guy who has lived in the area all his life or the big franchise with restaurants around the world?

Tailoring your messaging and your optimisation to your local market will be one of the key factors in your success and will allow you to compete with big brands in the local space. Focus on your Google My Business listing, encourage people to leave reviews and support local community events in order to raise brand awareness and affinity. You can learn more about local SEO in our 17-part checklist to improve your local SEO.

3. Take Inspiration from the Best Brands

Just because you are competing with the big brands doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn from them. With huge marketing teams, website developers and in-house SEO teams, multinational companies follow a lot of good practices when it comes to marketing and SEO. 

Whether you need inspiration for blog content, or perhaps you are thinking about expanding your product or service offering, make sure you carry out extensive competitor research to find out what they are doing well and where there are potential gaps. 

With the things they are doing well, is there an opportunity for you to take what they are doing and make it better? Known as the skyscraper technique, this is often applied to website content where you provide the most in-depth content around a certain topic that will blow the competition out of the water.

It’s not just your content marketing that can take inspiration from leading brands. Website design is another crucial part of growing your business.

As a small business, your brand awareness is likely to be fairly low, so when people land on your website for the first time, you need to deliver an experience that is professional-looking, easy to use and highly engaging.

Look at the websites of world-leading brands such as Coca-Cola, Netflix and Betway. They often have a very clean design with a lot of white or black space and strong, bold colours for call-to-action buttons and key areas on a page.

Clutter can have a negative impact on your site's user experience so keep it clean and simple and help visitors to get to the key areas of your website quickly and efficiently. Then provide them with content that adds value.

Related post: How to Improve Your Web Design in 5 Easy Steps.


There is no reason small businesses can’t compete with big brands in the organic search space. It’s about learning which battles to pick and how to maximise the resources you have to generate the most revenue.

Sometimes this means sacrificing high traffic volumes in exchange for more relevant traffic. Whilst the numbers might not look as impressive when it comes to traffic, focus on high conversion rates, sales and revenue.

Learn from the big brands by carrying out in-depth competitor analysis and apply those learnings to your own business. Use the research to identify areas that the big brands aren't focussing on and assess the value of those opportunities.

Craig Lebrau

CMO at Media Insider

Craig Lebrau is the CMO of Media Insider, a PR company that aims to disrupt the way companies communicate their brand in the digital era.