Once upon a time, you could get the word out about your business by simply placing an ad on a billboard or counting on word of mouth. But today, the concept of brand awareness is far more complicated, and paying attention to it may be more necessary than ever before. OnBrand surveys in 2017 and 2018 found that brand awareness was the second highest priority of marketers, as important as new customer acquisition and customer experience.
So, let’s say you’ve already created a brand identity that reflects the values of your business, and now you want to share your brand with potential customers or clients. What can you do to market yourself effectively, and how much branding is enough?
In this article, we’ll suggest some different methods for raising awareness around your brand. We’ll also highlight some precautions that business owners should take before rushing to slap their logo on everything in sight.
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How to get your brand out there
Before you start promoting your brand, it’s important to understand why you’re doing it. Brand awareness helps you stand out in a crowd of competitors, proves to potential customers that you’re trustworthy and professional, and generates a buzz about your product or service. It may not lead directly or instantly to new business, but over time, making people aware of your brand will attract new customers and help retain existing ones. Here are some of the many ways you can introduce your brand to the right audience:
This category is key because people spend a lot of time online. (In 2018, the Pew Research Center reported that 26% of American adults are online “almost constantly,”while 43% go online several times a day.) It also covers a wide range of platforms, the most basic of which are your email marketing, company website, and social media accounts.
Encourage people to sign up for your email list by making it easy and offering worthwhile incentives. Make sure your website contains current information, looks great, and is pleasant to interact with, then link back to it whenever possible. Remember that many people will be encountering your website or email message on a smartphone, so make sure those are mobile responsive. If you maintain a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, or elsewhere — and you should — post regularly and keep your voice consistent across all platforms.
Just because everyone’s online all the time doesn’t mean you should neglect good old-fashioned business cards, flyers, and other tangible forms of marketing. On many occasions you’ll want to distribute a physical reminder of who you are and what you do, and a quality brochure or postcard can help your brand stick in someone’s mind. Another form of traditional communication that hasn’t gone away is the business letter; make sure whoever writes these for you is doing it properly, and uses your branded letterhead.
Branded gear for your employees
Whether your company consists of just you or a team of workers, branded apparel (e.g. t-shirts, sweatshirts, and hats) can make your business seem larger, more established, and give your employees a more professional look. The same goes for branded equipment and vehicles. It also subtly places your name and image in front of far more potential customers than would ever wander into your store or office.
Branded giveaway items
Common examples of these items (also known as marketing collateral, swag, and free stuff) include pens, USB drives, and stickers. Their obvious benefit is that a useful small item can be kept, and often passed to other people, for months or even years. This is an affordable way to remind customers of their (hopefully positive) interaction with your brand, while alerting new people to your brand’s existence.
When your business sponsors a festival, concert, theatrical performance, fair, or sporting event, it means your branding gets seen by masses of people who might not otherwise encounter it. And just because this audience may be large, that doesn’t mean you can’t target your efforts. If your brand promotes healthy habits, sponsoring a race or health fair would put your name in front of likely customers. You don’t have to be a big company capable of sponsoring major events to take advantage of this strategy; try reaching out to new or local events.
Storefront and in-store
If you have a brick and mortar location, don’t underestimate the power of an attractive storefront to draw in customers. The smallest touches, like a fun sidewalk board, can capture people’s attention. Even if those people don’t come inside, they might snap a picture and post it on social media.
Make sure to continue your branding efforts inside your space as well. So many businesses look similar these days, so giving yours a unique look will keep customers coming back.
It can be easy to overlook old-fashioned forms of advertising — think TV and radio commercials, newspaper ads, and the aforementioned billboards — that are still viable ways to get publicity for your business. At the same time, new forms of advertising are constantly evolving, and depending on the nature of your business, it may make more sense to buy ads on Facebook or Google, or look into influencer marketing.
Participating in trade shows, conferences, and events
Setting up a booth at a trade show or participating in a conference is a great way to get your product or service in front of a larger, wider audience. If that’s not a fit for your business now, you can still introduce yourself and your brand at in-person networking events and smaller meetups in your city.
When you become a member of your local Chamber of Commerce, promoting your business becomes, well, their business. Because people often look to their local chamber for recommendations, simply being on their member list can both get you new clients and confer a sense of legitimacy to your brand. Chambers of commerce can also provide connections to other local business owners and government, giving you more networking opportunities. You can also get similar benefits from joining trade associations and local business networking groups.
Before you start
At this point, you probably have a million branding ideas. But before you jump into any of the above methods, there are a few steps you should consider taking to protect your business and increase your success.
When deciding where to focus your branding efforts, stay true to your values and remember who your customers are. For instance, if you sell eco-friendly products and aim to attract customers who care about the environment, cheap plastic pens with your logo on them will play badly in an age when increasing numbers of consumers value authenticity in brands.
Also keep in mind that what works for one type of business won’t necessarily work for another. Dressing employees in branded polo shirts might make a landscaping company look more legitimate, while a similar staff uniform would cheapen the brand of a clothing store that values cutting-edge style.
Get the right insurance
If you’re advertising your business, you’ll need advertising injury coverage, which protects against privacy violation or libel claims, among others. This is usually included in your general liability policy. You may also need other types of coverage, like commercial auto insurance for your new branded vehicles. Check with your business insurance provider to make sure you have the right policy.
Make it legal
As you increase your branding efforts, you can protect your business by being informed about the relevant laws. Research your state and federal laws regarding advertising. If you’re rebranding or creating a new brand, you might want to register your trademarks and copyrights.
Do your tax homework
Your branding may not affect your tax returns, but it could – for example, if your business begins donating to charities that align with your brand values, you may be able to deduct certain contributions. Just be aware that any change in your finances might impact your business at tax time, so be sure to stay on top of these changes.
Keep it manageable
You might want to do everything you can to share your brand with the world, but that can leave you overwhelmed and ultimately hurt your image. Take social media for example. It’s easy to make accounts on various platforms, but harder to post regularly, create useful and high-quality content, stay up to date with hashtags and etiquette, and interact with your followers. Remember that it’s okay to not be everywhere, if that means strengthening your brand’s presence where you decide it matters most.
It’s often said that the ROI of branding efforts like these is difficult to measure, and they may indeed feel like less concrete actions than other tactics for attracting customers. Still, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth putting in the extra effort to raise awareness of your brand. It may even be crucial to succeed in today’s business world.