Building Brand Awareness vs. Marketing

Marketing can be incredibly expensive. In fact, for many startups, after initial investment and any payroll obligations, marketing campaigns can easily be the most expensive part of your business. If you’re a rookie entrepreneur (heck, even if you’re a veteran entrepreneur), you may feel enticed to blast news and advertisements about your new company and its products through every marketing channel you can, across every demographic available. And, when someone asks you why you’re advertising so broadly — citing concepts like marketing segmentation, customer profiles, and Cost of Conversion (CoC) — you might be inclined to respond with, “It’s okay; we’re building brand awareness.”

If this is you, I’m sorry to tell you but the term “building awareness” wasn’t meant to be the catch-all justification of wasteful marketing spending. A brand awareness strategy has just as many tactical elements as any marketing segmentation strategy.

Don’t “Spray and Pray”

There are so many ways to get out news about your new business these days that, instead of picking the best fit for your product or service, choosing “all of the above” can sure makes things easier.  Unfortunately, it can also really make things expensive!

If you’re trying to convert potential customers into actual customers using the fewest marketing dollars possible, then you should be focusing on building a profile of who your customer is, where they shop, what motivates them, what marketing channels reach them, and when they consume media you can advertise in. Don’t be afraid to conduct a market analysis, even an informal one, to gain more insight. The more of these questions you can answer, the more precise you can be with your advertising, and the fewer advertising mediums where you’ll need to purchase ad space. Sure, expenses of a business include marketing and advertising, but why spray marketing money all over creation when you can spend it to reach your best potential customers. You might also consider the Chamber of Commerce membership benefits for small business. Locally targeted marketing opportunities and resources are a great way to increase your reach without breaking the bank.

When Building Brand Awareness Makes Cents

During my time as a CEO, I’ve been told that the number of “touches” or interactions required for a potential customer to even consider incorporating your product into their life is somewhere between 7 and 20. Now whether that number was the product of legitimate research on consumers, or a marketer selling “touches,” is hard to say. But what’s easy to see is that it takes a lot of advertising to reach those touch numbers.

Awareness building is a natural byproduct of many advertising campaigns, but it can also be something you strategically leverage. An example of this is advertising before your prime selling season comes up. For example, here at Patriot Software, we know that December and January are our prime selling months for our accounting and payroll software, because many small business owners are thinking about year-end closing procedures in accounting and better methods for how to do payroll with minimum cost.

However, if we started running our ads during that time frame alone, many small business owners might be unsure about who we are since they would have never heard of us before. By advertising in advance, we ensure that we’re a familiar name when they enter that point in the year when they’re thinking about switching to, or trying out, a product like ours. It’s the old “hey, I know them, I should try that” technique. Consultants and agencies know to that you need to properly position yourself before launching any campaigns for building your business.

Simply put, when you build brand awareness before a more segmented and focused marketing campaign, you can increase that campaign’s efficacy. Create a business budget with these awareness concepts in mind.

Don’t Forget About PR

One of the best ways to get nearly free advertising — advertising which is both an effective form of awareness-building and conversion — is to invest in public relations efforts. Sadly, many entrepreneurs go about public relations all wrong.

Members of the media are tasked with presenting new and noteworthy developments to their, or their employer’s, readership. Every entrepreneur thinks their new startup is newsworthy. And of course it’s interesting—it’s your business! However, entrepreneurs looking for publicity are biased. Heck, even if you’re not, you’ll sound like you are to a reporter who has heard a zillion pitches just like yours.

Not every reporter is going to find your business as fascinating and cutting edge as you do, so spamming them to take notice and validate your arrival is a serious misstep as it not only relegates your requests to a trash can but it relegates you to a block list. Online payroll is not exactly a product full of mystery and intrigue, so my team and I know how important it is to frame and pitch the product correctly.

To have success in the PR game, think about the reporter you’re pitching, what they cover, and who their readership is. When you pitch, don’t tell them the things you find unique and interesting things about your company; tell them what is interesting and relevant in relation to the topics they cover. Support your claims with numbers and examples and, if possible, supply multiple angles that make your news more engaging. The more interesting and appealing you can make your company to a reporter’s readership, the more relevant your company will be to that reporter.

If your first pitch gets no response, that’s not a reason to stop pitching. Members of the media wake up to boxes stuffed with pitches like yours every day. Your pitch may be excellent, but, the sheer volume of demand, especially for more prominent members of the media means there will be more rejects and silence than success. Even so, stay persistent!  PR is advertising, building your brand, and an endorsement all rolled into one. And for the price—typically free—it’s worth it.

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