Small business owners are usually skeptical of “branding” as a marketing strategy. After all, most small businesses don’t have the seven-figure marketing budget that is necessary to pursue branding in the same way that big businesses like Coca-Cola or Apple can.

But that doesn’t mean that there is no place for branding in a small business. In fact, many of my clients have built very powerful brands which have contributed to the growth of their business.

The key is to create a brand that meets the emotional needs of your customers. In other words, ensure that your business gives your customers what they want emotionally (often subconsciously) as well as tangibly. If you’re successful, not only will your products and services meet the needs of your customers, but the experience of doing business with you will be so pleasant that they’ll keep coming back for more.

Below are four ways you can do this:

1) Position yourself as the expert. Everyone prefers to do business with an expert. If you need surgery, are you going to be more comfortable with an experienced, well-respected expert… or a young surgeon fresh out of medical school? Of course you’ll prefer the expert! Your customers are the same way, and you can highlight your own expertise by blogging, writing articles, giving speeches, sending out e-newsletters, and so on. Position yourself as an expert, and your customers will be happier than ever to do business with you.

2) Provide exceptional customer service. Customer service is one of the best ways that a business can separate itself from the competition. If your support team can consistently meet the needs of your customers, help them resolve problems, and provide answers… they’re going to love doing business with you. So make it a priority.

3) Manage expectations – and then exceed them. How do you feel when a package that you’re eagerly awaiting arrives a day earlier than expected? Or when the bakery sticks a couple of extra donuts into your box? Surprised and delighted… right? Take the same approach with your business. Under promise, and over deliver.

4) Never stop innovating. Finally, stay on the cutting edge. Keep developing products and services that will better serve your market. Not only does this result in profitable new product lines and service offerings, but it lets your customers know that you are always working to improve. And that makes them feel great about doing business with you.

Spending millions of dollars on a traditional branding campaign is not likely the best use of your money. Investing time and effort into the customer experience you create, however, is a profitable use of your time. Make the emotional needs of your customers a priority… and get busy meeting them.