Brand management is not just for the world's largest corporations. Even in the business-to-business (B2B) realm, branding is vital to promoting a company and its products and services. You want your name to be recognizable and positive, but advertising your way into the minds and hearts of potential customers is outrageously expensive.

By working with social media, publishing content and creating a positive customer experience, you can conduct brand management like a large company.

With that in mind, here are six things you can do to improve brand management and make it work better for your business — all without breaking the bank:

1. Learn About Your Brand

You'd think a company would know everything about itself, but often managers and executives have a different view than their customers do. And because that latter opinion is the only one that counts, you should survey customers to discover what they think. In a B2B setting, that will mean talking to more than one person because purchases are complex processes that involve different people, each one specifying product requirements, purchase conditions and additional layers of authorization. The better you understand how each person views what you do, the better you'll understand your brand and the aspects that customers find most attractive.

2. Use Content Marketing

Traditional advertising has become costly and unwieldy. Content marketing, in which your company provides useful information directly to customers, is a necessary tool that helps you demonstrate expertise, build trust and begin or continue relationships with a range of people involved in B2B purchasing. Content marketing can include many aspects, including white papers, blog posts, videos, charts, tutorials and slide shows. Virtually all purchases start with research, whether it's about a general topic or specific products or service offerings. By helping someone shorten the research phase, you provide helpful information while demonstrating your company's expertise and commitment to customer service, all while linking to material where the customer can learn more about your offerings. Content shows your brand identity through tone, design and approach; it's where the company directly addresses the prospect.

3. Try Social Media and Public Relations (PR)

Advertising has yet another problem: You can't assume that those involved in purchase decisions are all exposed to the same media and ads. Broaden your reach through social media and PR, including commenting on issues of interest to your potential audience and producing articles to run in industry publications. A social program will require people dedicated to maintaining the company's voice on various social networks. When someone addresses the company, whether on Twitter, Facebook or another network, there should be a quick answer, or else your company has effectively snubbed that person. Consider using your own social media accounts to mention events and other major news with a link to more information on your site, but be sure to always provide positive and useful content.

When it comes to PR, remember that reporters and editors are looking for information that will interest their readers. As you're trying to reach people through these gatekeepers, understand readers' needs and address them. Needless self-promotion is often ignored.

4. Stay Positive Toward Competition

To be effective and promote your brand, it is important to avoid negatively mentioning competitors. Brand building can be like politics, as Ken Lin, founder and CEO of Credit Karma, writes in Inc.: "We've always looked at our brand-building efforts like we were running a campaign. Our choice has been to not call out our competitors. You can still speak loudly by talking only about your own positives, because it organically points out that others don't share your strengths."

There may be times when you can address competitors. For example, you could show a factual, published comparison between your products and those from another company. Often, this can be a goodwill move to show when a competitor's offering might suit a prospect better than your own. However, if a competitor attacks, use the incident to demonstrate where and how your firm is better. Stay above the fray and give potential customers more reason to deal with you.

5. Focus on Service Delivery and Quality

No matter what you say or how much expertise you demonstrate, branding always comes down to customers' experiences with a company and its products or services. The best way to build your brand is to create a customer journey that's strong enough to bring people back and get them talking favorably about you. Part of creating a strong experience is remembering that the customer has the ultimate say. Understand feedback and talk further with clients to understand what they like or dislike about you — and why. This will help you improve, all while keeping the customer at the center of your business.

6. Be Patient

There is no quick solution for brand management. Publishing content, working PR and, most importantly, creating a positive customer experience all take significant investments in time and effort. Don't try to find shortcuts; take the necessary steps. You'll be happy you did in the long run.

When was the last time your company evaluated its brand? Did leadership see a need for change, and if so, how did you publicly alter your image? Let us know by commenting below.

Erik Sherman is an NCMM contributor and author whose work has appeared in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times Magazine, Newsweek, the Financial Times, Chief Executive, Inc. and Fortune. He also blogs for CBS MoneyWatch. Sherman has extensive experience in corporate communications consulting and is the author or co-author of 10 books. Follow him on Twitter.