Some business owners brush off the idea of brand awareness. We get it. “Brand awareness” sounds like something enterprise-level companies have conference room meetings about. At first glance, it doesn’t seem like the kind of thing a local pub or a plumber should need to take into account.

But here’s the thing. Whether you craft your brand identity or not, you have one. So why not use some basic marketing strategy to build a brand that helps your business grow? Brand awareness should be a key part of that strategy.

Said another way, small businesses need brand awareness as much as any big business. And it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. 

In this article, we’ll explain what brand awareness is and why it matters. We also give you a few ideas for how you can build it without breaking the bank.

What’s brand awareness, anyway?

A recognizable name is not the same as brand awareness. 

Real brand awareness happens when companies wedge themselves into customers’ minds. They market themselves so their name alone evokes memories about products, services and unique business qualities.

Brand awareness has an emotional component. People feel things about companies that have effectively cultivated brand awareness. Real brand awareness means getting customers thinking about you without looking at an ad.

What’s more, there are brand awareness opportunities all over the place… but companies of every size miss them.

Brand awareness goes deeper than name recognition. It’s about customers understanding what you do and why you matter. 

For example, how many times have you seen a billboard and thought, “Huh. I wonder what that company does.” You’re thinking about the ad, sure. Something sparked your curiosity. But there wasn’t enough there to really push for a buying decision.

So that business wasted some of its marketing budget, simply because you didn’t connect the feeling of the ad with their products and services.

How do we create brand awareness?

Building brand awareness is an in-depth process. But it’s not a particularly complex process. It just requires some thoughtfulness when it comes to your marketing strategy.

Here’s how to get started fast.

Improve your effective frequency

Advertising costs money. The reason? While it’s not particularly expensive to put one ad out there, it takes more than one ad to build brand awareness.

Fortunately, there are ways to make your ads more impactful.

Let’s consider effective frequency. Effective frequency is the number of times a customer needs to see an ad before it influences them. The lower your effective frequency, the fewer of your ads potential customers need to see before their behavior is influenced.

The better your ads, the better your effective frequency and the less you have to spend.

To improve your effective frequency, try looking at your ads with fresh eyes. Even if you feel strongly about your ads, that doesn’t mean prospects feel the same way. 

Ask the following questions, and be brutally honest in your critique:

  • Is there a clear purpose in your ads?
  • If you knew nothing about your brand, would you know key pieces of information (company name and what you sell) based on that ad?
  • How does the ad make you feel?
  • What’s the intended Call to Action (CTA) for the ad? (In other words, what’s the customer supposed to do next?)

Determine the exact purpose each ad serves in your marketing strategy. And if you don’t have a marketing strategy, don’t freak out. Building one is a great way to start the brand awareness journey.

Spread it around

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was Google. Building brand awareness takes time and effort. This is true for every industry and every business style.

Remember, even ads with a great effective frequency still need to appear multiple times to work. Additionally, they need to appear in multiple ways.

Some different venues might include:

What if you only pick one venue? Surely that will work, right?

Well, theoretically, yes. But if you can plan for 2-3 venues (especially ones that overlap), you’re much more likely to establish brand awareness.

For example, if you sell B2B, it would be smart to advertise in trade magazines (yes, that still works) and attend some trade shows or conferences targeting the same crowd. Folks will start to feel like they’re seeing your name everywhere… and that’s kind of the idea.

The tricky part is picking the venues your customers will see.

Take time to think about your average customer. What’s their age? What do they do in their spare time? Where will your ads stand out?

Make your marketing budget count by spending it wisely.

Go beyond your company name and logo

Some ads leave you with questions because there’s just not enough information. Even if you have the most memorable name and the most interesting logo, if prospective customers don’t know what you do, who cares?

When you market yourself, always make sure there’s enough info so customers quickly understand what your company does. (Bonus points if you can also include how you do it differently than others.)

Including the following in as many ads as possible.

You don’t need all this information in literally every ad. And some of this information won’t make sense for some venues. (There’s no reason to include your brick-and-mortar address in a promoted Instagram ad.) But generally, try to include at least three of these options:

  • Your location
  • Your web address
  • How to contact you—options are good)
  • A relevant image—that could be your logo, but it doesn’t have to be
  • Your slogan or tagline
  • Your unique value proposition

Never spend money on promotional media that includes just your name and logo. That’s not enough information to give a prospective customer reason to take action. Only choose media where you have the ability to state something, even if it’s brief. 

Let’s recap

Brand awareness happens when customers attach meaning to your marketing campaigns. That meaning prompts action, which is how you build a loyal following. 

To create brand awareness for your company, you need to:

  1. Identify a consistent, effective message
  2. Deliver the message to customers regularly in multiple places they visit
  3. Tell a story with more than your name and logo

If you’re looking to start right now, it’s easy. Begin by assessing your current marketing materials.

  • Do you have marketing materials now? If not, that’s where you need to start.
  • If you do have marketing materials now, what’s your effective frequency? If you don’t know, do your best to come up with an educated guess. How many times would folks need to see your ads before they remember you without the ads?
  • How many venues are you currently advertising in? Are your current venues the best ones for your target audience?
  • What story do your ads tell? What feelings do they evoke?

Depending on how you answer those questions, you should get a relatively clear picture of your next steps. 

And don’t feel like you have to do this alone. Work with others on your team to help brainstorm. Or consider enlisting the help of a marketing agency.

Whatever you choose to do, make sure you get as much bang for your marketing buck as possible.

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