As consumers, we all have preferences when it comes to what we buy, where we buy it and how much we spend. While it can be challenging to compete with the big competitors when it comes to marketing, small businesses have the upper hand when creating an effective brand and customer experience.

Just being on the small side means more control – over the financial plan, the in-store atmosphere and many other elements of the company. As a business owner, you should be constantly on the lookout for ways to use your size to your advantage, and place your firm in the hearts and minds of many consumers.

In order to help with that important goal, here are four easy steps to build a strong brand:

1. Create fantastic products and services
All great companies have the products and services to back it up. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, you need to as well. Your brand won't ever be able to generate loyalty unless customers enjoy buying from you. With that in mind, find ways to create products that go above and beyond all expectations. Never get complacent, either, and stay on the hunt for ways to get better.

2. Be a visible small business owner
While running things behind the scenes may be your goal, you should also be prepared to get out and meet people. The SBA explained that a visible small business owner can be a good thing for a brand. This doesn't always mean being the face of commercials or standing on the street corner, but it does entail being active in your store and taking charge of day-to-day operations.

3. Inject personality into your brand
A brand includes your marketing, products, logo and much more. Above all else, this aspect of your company covers the experiences people have when dealing with you, and positive ones can help build trust. According to Entrepreneur magazine, you also need to inject a little personality into your brand. Tie together all the elements with a theme that fits your company. It could be fun, playful, serious or energetic, for example.

4. Talk to your customers
You'll never be able to create a quality brand unless you know what your customers are thinking. Entrepreneur magazine recommended getting out and taking the pulse of your consumers. You can do this by walking around the store and talking to people, sending out surveys online or tracking Internet behavior. No matter how you do it, understanding what your customers' want will allow you to make intuitive decisions.