Ryan's experience ranges from higher education to SMBs and tech startups. When not doing digital marketing, he's sure to be enjoying some kind of nerdy pastime.
Brand awareness is critical to driving customer acquisition at scale.
There's a sticky little thing called a cognitive bias that influences us to more readily purchase from brands we recognize; even if the brand-name product is more expensive.
Even in cases where a product is made in the exact same place, by the exact same employees, but marketed under different brands, the perceived value of the products are different. I remember driving a family member's slick, black Lexus when I was a teenager. Then, I jumped into my uncle's Camry, and was shocked to find they were nearly identical.
The price tag was different, the perceived value was different, and the status symbol of ownership was different. But the cars were nearly the same.
Building brand awareness is not rocket science, but a lot of brands still struggle with it.
Building a Brand Awareness Strategy
Marketers understand that building brand awareness is a lot of work. But, the work is where things usually go off the rails. Brands get distracted spending budget, time, and energy on a lot of tasks that are not important. They feel like they are making progress because they're knocking down tasks left and right, but the feeling of progress doesn't translate to actual awareness.
Busy work doesn't equate to brand awareness.
Yes, building awareness, especially if you're a newer or smaller brand, is a lot of work. But it's a lot of the right work. If you do the right things well, you can experience a noticeable increase in brand awareness, which drives brand recognition, which drives easier and shorter sales cycles.
So, what are the right things? I'm glad you asked. In this article, we're going to explore the five things you need to spend the most of your time doing, if you want to increase the exposure of your brand.
Know Your Personas
Notice, this section is not called "build buyer persona dossiers."
Almost every company runs out and builds these profiles of their target audience. They write down where they live, what their dog's name is, where they went to school, how much money they have in the bank; and the list goes on, and on.
And none of that matters, because they still don't know their personas.
If I had to guess, I would say that about 80% of companies who have built buyer persona dossiers never look at them. Their salespeople don't use them. Their marketers reference them in passing once in a while. But, they're in a drawer somewhere because if anyone asks, "we've built our buyer personas."
You need to know your buyer personas, not build them.
If you want a brand awareness strategy that works, you need to know who they are - like they were a family member. You need to understand where they hang out, and why they like it there. You need to know what keeps them up at night. You need to know what stresses them out. You need to know what makes them nervous at work.
And, you need to know why.
By all means, build your buyer personas slides. We still build them for every single client. But, we make sure that they actually hold the information that lets us understand them. We reference our clients' buyer personas all the time. And you should too.
If you don't know your ideal customers, you can't effectively build awareness with them.
"Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while," is not a good customer acquisition strategy.
Become a Publishing Company
Joe Pulizzi has been preaching this for a while. Every company in every industry, b2b or b2c doesn't matter, needs to become a publishing company.
Do you sell used MRI equipment to hospitals? You're a publishing company.
Do you sell mortgages? Yep, you're a publishing company, too.
Every business in the world, for-profit, and nonprofit, should become a publishing company.
There is no brand awareness strategy without content.
Content can be produced in different formats, on different channels, and through different mediums. Depending, again, on what your personas want, and the kind of content they engage with the most, you must aggressively create the content that gets their attention.
That doesn't mean writing a bunch of blog posts about how great your company or product is. That's not what a publishing company does.
Imagine how far BuzzFeed would get, if every piece of content they produced was about themselves? That's boring! We want them to create content like, the 85 funniest tweets of all time. No, they don't talk about how great BuzzFeed is in that article, but now I know who they are. And, I laughed so hard at the content that I want to know what else they've got for me.
An effective brand awareness strategy will include lots of content. Then, optimize that content for SEO. And, then, promote it like it's going out of style.
Blog every day.
Post photos and videos to Facebook.
Start a YouTube channel.
Stop waiting on people to discover you, and stop trying to acquire them. Help them find you, like a match made in heaven, because you are creating the content they are looking for.
Become a Social Company
This is closely attached to being a publishing company. In order to truly add value to the social networks your personas inhabit, you need that interesting, entertaining, or supremely useful content.
The difference is, social media is really about being social.
If you want to build brands awareness, learn this lesson I learned from Gary Vaynerchuk: there is no such thing as a brand.
You can't engage with a brand.
Brands are not real.
It's the people behind the brand that are real. They are what make the brand. The products the brand is known for is because of the people that work to make, market, sell, and support that product.
If you're going to crush it on social media, you need to let your personas see behind the logo. Stop thinking in terms of B2B or B2C, and think in terms of P2P - Person-to-Person.
Wherever your target personas hang out, be there. Become a master of that channel. If they are on LinkedIn the most, forget about Twitter. Go all-in on LinkedIn.
Live in that space.
Create content for that space.
Engage in that space.
Don’t try to take traffic away from LinkedIn like most brands do. Create content there, on the platform your personas are using. If they read a blog post on Facebook, it’s no different from reading it on your blog. Who cares where they read it, the important thing is not to have a vanity metric like, “wow, look how many came to our website.”
The real important thing is that someone read your content. You earned and kept their attention for a while.
That’s the goal!
Do that enough times, and you have literally created brand awareness.
Master Paid Content Amplification
Oh my goodness, stop spending money on ads pointed at your homepage.
That kills me!
If you’re running an ad to a product or offering page, it better be a high-converting offer to cold traffic, or you better be running remarketing ads. If neither of those are the case, you’re probably losing money.
Instead, consider the kind of ad spend a publishing company would budget for. It’s amplification.
Don’t just rely on your target to find you - there’s too much noise out there. Even if you are creating the very content your personas as scouring Google, there’s a good chance you’re not ranking for the way they typed the search term.
You need to help them find you. This is where paid content amplification comes into play, and it’s powerful.
If you are producing content that your target audience finds truly helpful and valuable, pay to get that content in front of them. Run Facebook ads to your content, not your sales page.
The goal is to introduce your brand to the public, to build that cognitive bias with them. Don’t push the salesman on them the minute they step in the door. Give them something useful first.
If you promote your best content through paid ads, you are guaranteed to see an uptick in brand awareness as a result. And, if any of your content goes viral (it really has to be good), your audience will share it and you get to enjoy massive amounts of attention for a season.
When that happens, make the most of it. Give them more of that same kind of content!
Value and Manage Your Leads
Don’t put in a ton of effort, time, and dollars towards gaining attention from your audience if you don’t have a pathway to loyalty setup. You need to have a way to get those who really like you into your funnel.
This means you need lead magnets and landing pages.
If your content resonates with your personas, they will want to engage further. Help them do that. Give them an offer that is the logical next step, and capture the lead. Build up your email list, and keep sending them content they want to engage with.
The larger that list grows, and the better your content gets, the larger reach your fresh, new content enjoys. If you send an email blast about a new piece of content to a list of 100, you have to do a lot of work to reach 10,000. But, if you send that same email to a list of 5,000, suddenly, it doesn’t seem so hard to reach 10,000, especially if your list members share your content.
Building a list is like rolling a snowball downhill. It gets bigger and heavier as it goes, and eventually momentum takes over and it’s unstoppable.
A Brand Awareness Strategy Takes Time
Now, here’s the deal. It sounds easy, but it’s not.
Brand Awareness is an ongoing battle for even the biggest, most well-known brands. Why do you think Doritos and Budweiser spend a fortune every year to get ads in the Super Bowl?
You’re not going to create a couple videos, and post a few blog posts and call it a day. That’s why you need to become a publishing company.
Building brand awareness is not something you do, it’s something you are. You’re a brand awareness company who sells a product.
Once you understand this, you’ll stop spinning your wheels on marketing tricks that don’t work. You’ll roll up your sleeves, and learn to love each item on this list.
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