Your business’ brand may be your most important sales tool. Brand awareness refers to how well customers, and the public in general, remember your business and relate to it positively or negatively. In this article, I’ll share numerous brand awareness strategies and how they can be implemented with your website.
In my guide to search engine optimization with WordPress, I discussed the importance of backlinks in Google rankings. Backlinks are driven by the power of your brand. More generally, your brand keeps you top of mind and encourages repeat business. In many cases, companies piggyback on the brand power of larger ones, such as those who sell products through a well known retailer, or are featured by a popular media channel. First, let’s look at the underlying rule of brand awareness.
Know, Like, Trust
I covered this rule in my Instagram marketing article, but it pays review it again. The “Know, Like, Trust” rule is the foundation of building a brand and generating sales. The public needs to first know who you and your business are through advertising and/or word of mouth. Next, they need to have a favorable opinion of you. Lastly, they need to be certain your business will meet their needs.
The brand awareness strategies I’ll share fall under distinct categories, but they can happen at more than one of the “Know, Like, Trust” steps. This is because marketing is a continuous job, and you’ll be simultaneously communicating to leads at different stages in the funnel.
1. Be Shareable
Word of mouth is the oldest marketing strategy of all, but technology gives us new ways of carrying it out. In the early days of Facebook, it was simple to share news articles, promotions, and events. These days, Facebook’s newsfeed seems to restrict everything except memes from being shared, all so businesses pay money for advertising. Luckily, there are still workarounds such as posting to groups, tagging friends in posts, and sharing links through direct messaging.
People need a reason to spread the word about you. You can post valuable blog content, have a great deal, or offer them a bonus if they tell their friends. Affiliate marketing is the practice of offering content creators a sales commission of products. Bloggers, Podcasters, and YouTubers include links to sites where visitors can buy something. If you follow that marketer’s link to the sales page, the marketer will earn a percentage of the sale. It’s something I take part in for digital products I trust. If you build an e-commerce website in WordPress, or sell downloads or memberships, there are affiliate marketing plugins that integrate with your sales apps.
One of the most basic ways people can share your brand is to include social sharing links in your blog articles. Facebook may be the biggest player in social media, but it’s far from the only one. You may be a member of Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Reddit, Tumblr, Instagram, Minds, or YouTube, to name just a few. When readers follow the links from those networks to your page, you should include calls-to-action to join an email list, contact your business, or go to your sales page.
Advertising is perhaps the most proactive brand strategy, and it’s one we all know about. Is it worthwhile in the Internet Age? I would say the value of traditional advertising is gradually decreasing. Older forms of media like t.v., radio, and print are losing ground with young people, and people who spend time online have less and less patience with ads. Ads are usually seen as the price of using free platforms. Tech companies who rely on ads for revenue play tug-of-war with ad-blocker apps, with each side trying to outsmart the other’s programming. Content creators like YouTubers and news organizations are earning less money from ads, so they’re less likely to include them.
It sounds bad for paid advertising, but that’s only if you define it as commercials, pop-ups, and space in the newspaper. The smart brands adapt to the changing culture. Online, it’s acceptable for companies to sponsor content creators, such as influencers, and pay them to pitch for them inside their posts. Influencers don’t even need to be worldwide celebrities, they just need to be respected inside their communities. Integrity goes a long way, and audiences hate sellouts, so the value of your product needs to be clearly articulated by your influencers.
If you run a local business and don’t mind driving around to get the word out, you can drop off small print materials. These include business cards, fliers, and brochures. They can be pinned to community bulletin boards, taped to lampposts, and placed inside waiting rooms- the idea is to be seen where people are already looking for information, or trying to pass the time. Your print items should grab people’s attention, then direct them to your website for more information. Your site should be mobile-friendly so they can look you up right away.
3. Give Value Up Front
This category of strategies is not up for debate; it is where you fulfill the “Like” and “Trust” steps. There are abundant real world examples of businesses that succeed by freely offering value before transactions. They prove ahead of time they are pro-consumer, and their audiences choose to purchase out of appreciation.
A common example of up front value in the digital space is the “freemium” business model. This is common with mobile apps, software as a service, and WordPress plugins. An application will have a free version that someone can try out and get comfortable with, then they’ll be enticed to purchase upgrades over time. The outrageously popular online game Fortnite is free to play, but its developers make money by selling in-game costumes for players’ characters. Fortnite focuses on its multiplayer game experience, and players express themselves through the paid costumes.
In the WordPress space, the best example of the freemium model is the runaway success of Elementor. Elementor is a page builder plugin that lets a user design a website any way they want. Its free version is the most feature-rich on the market, giving it great publicity. When the paid version eventually arrived, users saw it was extra-advanced.
For service businesses, a tried-and-true method of up front value is a blog. This is where you demonstrate knowledge in your field. You can also record videos or podcasts. When you educate people in a respectful manner, they’ll remember your brand. This can work in retail as well. Hy-Vee, the largest grocery store chain in my home state, publishes free magazines with recipes and lifestyle articles. It’s also common for Hy-Vee stores to have registered dietitians on staff, who host in-store tours and classes on healthy eating.
In these days when Facebook throttles the organic reach of businesses, the most reliable way to engage your audience is through email. To build an email subscriber list, it’s customary to offer a free gift, called a “lead magnet,” in exchange for people’s contact information. It’s best if a lead magnet is a digital product like a short ebook or PDF full of information. It can also be a discount, a free trial, or a video presentation. Your lead magnet is a rare instance when paid advertising is relevant; advertise your free offer, link to the landing/squeeze page, and continue the relationship-building outside of social media and Google.
You should continue giving value up front with your emails. These can be links to your latest blog posts, but they can also be shorter pieces or links to other people’s articles. The unofficial email marketing etiquette is to send 3 emails with useful content, and have every 4th email be a sales pitch.
4. Build A Community
Email marketing is one surefire way to engage your followers, but forming a community or group of customers has the added benefit of letting them give you feedback. You can form a Facebook group and promote it through your blogs, videos, ads, and/or emails. If you prefer to do it away from the social media giant, you can try LinkedIn, Reddit, or add a forum to your own website. In WordPress, the plugin to use is BBPress.
If you would like to make a local group that meets in person, a great resource is Meetup.com. Book a space to meet, and announce your get-together on Meetup ahead of time. You can have round table discussions with like-minded individuals, or host classes based on your expertise. This is similar to the Hy-Vee dietitians’ events.
When people feel they’re included in your community, they’ll appreciate your business more. This is a great venue to provide customer service and address their concerns. This is also a ready-made focus group that will help tailor your marketing message and bring in more clients.
5. Have A Brand Personality
Mainly, by having a brand personality, your business is relatable to human beings. Large companies rely on mascots or executive leaders to represent them, and smaller businesses define their personalities through a closer-knit team. There’s a widespread political stance that corporations aren’t people, but we should remember that corporations are made of people trying to get by. It helps that in a free market economy, there are multiple companies with diverse value sets, so employees and customers can get behind the ones they agree with individually.
Investopedia lists 5 main types of brand personalities: Excitement, Sincerity, Ruggedness, Competence, and Sophistication (Investopedia: “Brand Personality”). Different personalities are suitable for different industries. As a marketing consultant for other businesses, I hope to align with the sincerity and competence categories.
The Balance Small Business has a guide to defining brand identity, with 9 questions to ask yourself (“9 Steps To Developing A Brand Identity”). They deal with your target market and company values. You should also consider what emotions you evoke in people.
6. Tell A Story
Today, most people know the informative power of stories. Brand storytelling is just what it sounds like- telling tales that reflect your brand personality, values, and product offerings. There are many types of stories to use in your marketing, and they tie together nicely with the other brand awareness strategies discussed here.
The Huffington Post gives us 4 real world examples of brand storytelling and the reasons they work (read, “4 Fantastic Examples of Brand Storytelling.”) The first is High Brew Coffee, and how the founder was inspired to start his company after touring the Caribbean, as told on its website. This gives us a look at brand personality. Next is BeardBrand, which started as a blog and YouTube channel about men’s grooming products, and inspired its own line. Here, the business grew its community of viewers and responded to their requests.
Next in HuffPo’s article is the popular Blue Apron. On Blue Apron’s website is a page about their mission statement, and they relate the complicated food supply chain from farmers to markets in the modern day. They want to make it simpler and more economical, thereby inspiring their customers who share their values. The last company mentioned in the article is WeddingWire. WeddingWire is a hub for wedding supply vendors, planners, and venue booking. They feature a blog with behind the scenes stories, showing the human side of the business.
Storytelling can go towards giving up front value through information. Testimonials by existing customers make great stories, too; you can ask your community for them, which will have even more power than your own.
A great brand depends on more than a logo and a slogan. It’s not cut-and-dried, and there’s no single formula that will work for everyone. But like the wind, your business’ brand can move the world around it with surprising power. I hope this overview inspired you. If you’d like personalized help with your Internet marketing, go to my Services page through the link below.