If you had to name your company’s biggest problem, what would it be? If you’re like most businesses, the answer is “Nobody knows about us.”
While there are tens of thousands of innovative, skilled companies out there, one of the biggest challenges facing SMBs and entrepreneurs today is building brand awareness. After all, it’s hard to hit billion-dollar valuation if nobody knows you exist.
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As such, building brand awareness becomes a big concern for companies trying to get off the ground.
But how, exactly, do you go about doing it?
How can customers buy from you and help you grow if they don’t know you exist? How can you claim those magazine write-ups or high-visibility reviews if nobody knows you’re out there?
The answer is simple: you can’t.
If your brand’s worst nightmare is falling off into obscurity or never climbing out of it, to begin with, these seven brand strategies can help you step into the limelight and earn the recognition your brand deserves.
Here are seven efficient and creative strategies to get you started.
1. Exceed Expectations, Every time
When you’re working to get your venture off the ground, one of the single most important things you can do to build awareness of your brand is to blow your clients’ expectations out of the water. There are dozens of different ways to do this.
One Marketing Firm I’m familiar with charges clients for a quarterly social media package of 46 posts, but always delivers 60. A local bakery might decide that, in addition to baking tasty treats, they’re also going to offer free online ordering and delivery. A graphic design firm may include several free rounds of revisions in their creation policy – like we at SpellBrand do for every client.
There are dozens of ways to exceed expectations. The important part is to make sure you’re doing it. After all, loyal customers are worth up to 10x the value of their first purchase. They’re also more likely to tell their friends about you.
2. Make Your Content Entertaining
What was unique about an inexpensive razor subscription called Dollar Shave Club? Well, nothing – until they dropped one of the most buzzed-about launch videos in the history of the web.
Released March 6, 2012, the video has since amassed more than 24,573,548 views, 7,900 comments, and thousands of shares. It’s also one of the reasons that Dollar Shave Club to sold to Unilever for $1 billion last year.
While many brands do “entertaining” well, Dollar Shave Club proves that growth is contingent upon how fun and unique you can make your content. When people want to interact with and share your material, growth happens faster and more completely.
Make entertaining your customers your top priority, whether that’s through blog posts, videos, or original graphics.
3. Educate Everyone Who Visits You
Some SMBs and entrepreneurs make the mistake of thinking that certain industries can’t be educational. Health and medicine? Yes. Undergarments? No. Unfortunately, this is a mistake that can damage your long-term brand awareness.
If you want people to know you exist, you must take an active role in becoming a trusted source of information.
Look at how ThirdLove, a lingerie company specializing in ultra-comfortable undergarments, has done this on their Unhooked blog:
While it would be easy to write off this industry as one with nothing to teach, the savvy founders of ThirdLove have done a stellar job of creating a diversified content strategy that’s as informative (“How are bras made, after all?”) as it is appealing.
No matter what industry you’re in, don’t ever make the mistake of believing you have nothing to teach your customers. People are hungry to learn, and they value the brands that take the time to create educational material.
4. Focus on Personalized Incentives
In 2016, Virtual Incentives released a study that showed 56% of customers report personalized incentives boost their consideration of a brand.
Lots of startups are already doing this by providing a way for customers to personalize their products or taking small steps to add a personal touch. The more you can incorporate this personalization into your products, the better, whether it’s personalizing the “to” field of your emails or offering free personalization through your website.
The Virtual Incentives report revealed insights into just how accustomed and willing consumers are in having personal information used in conjunction with incentive delivery:
- Receipt of personalized reward: Only two out of every five respondents have received a personalized incentive and, of those, just over half said it increased their consideration of the brand.
- Brand perception, general: 56% said that receiving a personalized incentive would improve their consideration of the brand
- Brand perception, specific: While the vast majority indicated that use of personalization made a brand seem smart, unique and caring, a meaningful minority of 16% find it “creepy”
- Trust: Most respondents felt that a personalized incentive made them feel respected as a customer, while 1 in 4 feel it is a violation of their privacy.
- Type of personalization: 63% prefer a reward based on purchase history, rather than the less popular reference to a purchase location (24%) or use of name (23%)
5. Run Selfie Campaigns
Since selfie became the word of the year in 2013, the spread hasn’t slowed down. While this may mean annoyance for some, it’s a great opportunity for small businesses and startup founders to grow their brand awareness.
If you have an active social media presence, consider taking it a step further by running a “selfie campaign” – or encouraging your followers to take a picture of themselves using your product.
Not only does this help get the word out about your brand, but it makes it easier for people to interact with your product online.
6. Make Your Website into a Lead-Generation Machine
One of the simplest ways to enjoy an optimized and functional website today is to use a fully responsive template from a company like WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace.
In addition to ensuring your site looks beautiful on any device, responsive templates also make it easier for people to share and interact with your content.
You’ll also want to conduct some keyword research, so you know what your target audience is searching for and have a plan to cater your content to them accordingly.
7. Develop a Strong Brand
If you don’t have a strong brand, to begin with, building awareness around it is virtually impossible. Ensure your brand is as recognizable as possible – from your logo to your colors and fonts. This helps people remember your name and incentivizes them to share your material.
8. LinkedIn Group Participation
LinkedIn is a professional social network that allows you to participate in groups. A group is made up of a few or a lot of people with a similar interest. The interest is usually around the industry they work in or the products / services they need to do their job.
Participating in LinkedIn Groups helps you grow the brand of your business through the following ways:
- Engage in conversation with industry leaders
- Position yourself as an industry leader by sharing thoughts/content
- Answer questions from potential online customers
- Provide advice to potential customers
- Find potential customers to connect with on LinkedIn
- Gather contact information from potential customers
- Make initial contact with potential customers in a “warm” environment
What I mean by “warm environment” is that by connecting through questions/answers and sharing content in groups you are not cold-calling the potential customer and not simply a brand in the environmental sector! You are providing value in a comfortable, professional environment as your initial point of contact. That helps build up trust with the person and will make your sales pitch much more palatable.
You can find the LinkedIn Group Directory here.
9. Facebook Page + Like Campaign
With over 900 million people on Facebook, the biggest social network is a great place to help you grow the brand of your business.
If your business is new, it is likely that the initial people who engage with your Facebook page will be people who have known about your business since the beginning. Those people can help you grow your brand and spread awareness by “liking” and “sharing” your posts.
To grow your brand even faster you, however, you may consider running a “like” ad campaign supported by your brand evangelist. A “like” campaign on Facebook can be put together in Facebook’s ad center and runs on a CPM model (you pay a certain amount per every 1,000 views of the ad). This cost is usually fairly low – about $1.50 or less per 1,000 views.
The title of the ad in your “like” campaign will be whatever your Facebook Page is called (Facebook requires this). However, you can make the ad copy whatever you want it to be. I find it best to include a line about the benefit of your company plus a strong call to action.
For a homeless nonprofit I might suggest:
“Do you support ending homelessness in (local city)? “Like” us today to show your support and learn what we’re doing to help.”
For an email marketing software company I might suggest:
“Do you need an easy way to send email to a variety of lists? “Like” us today and we’ll share expert tips with you.”
You can easily tailor this ad copy formula for your business and start generating brand awareness through Facebook ads.
10. Blogging + Guest Blogging
Running a blog on your website will help you increase traffic to your site. If your site and blog is optimized for conversions, it should also help you drive more leads or sales.
If a lot of people share your blog posts on social networks you have a big opportunity for increasing brand awareness. The key way to get people to share your posts is by making sure they are high quality and full of helpful information. The best topics for blog posts would be:
- How-to type posts
- Statistics/facts about industry
- Case studies
These are the type of posts that tend to get shared the most.
While running your own blog is really important – a great way to quickly grow your brand awareness is by guest blogging for other, already well-established blogs.
To begin this process I would suggest going to AllTop.com and finding the most popular blogs in your niche. You can check out how much traffic each one gets through Compete.com. You want to aim for ones that get a lot of monthly visitors. The more visitors the site gets the more visibility your guest post will bring to your brand.
Once you have identified the top 5 blogs that will help you reach your target audience, begin forming relationships with the author(s) of those blogs. Comment on their posts, share their links on Twitter, engage them in conversation on Twitter and so on. Your goal here is to make sure they know who you are.
After a few weeks of engaging them through commenting and social media, shoot the author an email and ask if he/she would be interested in seeing a potential guest post for his/her blog.
You don’t need to have the full copy of the post ready – instead you’ll want to share a quick outline of what would be included in the post. Let the author/blog owner know you would be willing to provide this blog post for free in exchange for a link back to your own site in a short bio at the end of the post.
A typical guest blogger bio reads like this:
“This guest post is written by NAME, founder of BUSINESS NAME, a company that DOES X, Y, Z.”
Since the blog owner will already know you as a thoughtful and smart reader, he/she should be open to the idea of you guest blogging.
If you get the okay to write the post be sure to write one that will be really beneficial for the reader (how-to’s, statistics, case studies). The more interesting and helpful your post is, the more likely a reader will click through on the link in your guest blogger bio.
If you can get a lot of readers to click through on your link you have effectively increased the brand awareness for your business through guest blogging!
Better Brand Awareness Starts Here
While growing a successful company is an involved process, it’s much easier when you focus on building brand awareness first.
These seven tips, designed to help creative brands and startups promote brand awareness, are just what you need to get the word out about your company, and to enjoy the long-term, upward mobility that will provide.