Eight rules for building brand awareness

One of the most difficult things for any new enterprise or existing organisation with a low profile is the battle for awareness.Marketers sometimes refer to this as a lack of brand presence.  For people in this situation it is often expressed more dourly along the lines of: Why are we ignored?

The answer is not always that easy – especially if you are starting out, money for advertising is limited or non-existent and you are struggling for time.  The most obvious answer for companies with money is to spend some of it and simply buy awareness via advertising.  But even then, you need to be careful you are not simply starting a conversation in a very crowded and noisy room where your message just gets drowned out by all the others trying to get noticed.  So here are some tips for getting noticed:

1. Be very clear on the kinds of people with whom you need to build awareness.  This means avoiding the common mistake of trying to be all things to all people.  It could be that your business or organisation really only needs to create a connection with a very small group of people.  There are plenty of very successful businesses out there – especially in the business-to-business category that are only known by a very small group of people.  Example: Company X sells online purchasing software.  That immediately rules out all the companies that only trade from a physical location and have no online selling capacity – or interest.

2. Be absolutely clear on how you can best express the value your company or organisation presents to the segment of people with whom you want to build awareness.  This may sound stupid but often a business is ignored simply because prospective customers haven't worked out that what you offer is of value to them.  Example: Company X needs to be able to explain that its online purchasing software is unique in the market place and has specific attributes that provides advantages to users over other systems. 

3. Be ruthless in understanding the decision makers among the segment you are targeting.  For example, a business-to-business company may succeed in building awareness among relatively junior employees of a prospective client, while the senior manager who will make the ultimate decision over what is purchased is completely ignorant of you and the value you offer.  Example: Company X builds awareness among the lower echelons of its target client.  That's great, but really building awareness with Joe, the purchasing services manager probably matters a lot more.

4. Think about the mindset of the people with whom you want to start a conversation.  What problems are they most worried about? What is dominating their agenda right now?  The most useful interactions for them are going to be relevant interactions.  If you are in the right place, at the right time with a solution to the problem they are confronting right now, your chances of successful engagement are going to increase ten fold.  Example: Company X realises that right now purchasing managers are paranoid about the security of software system.  It just so happens your software system is ranked number one by independent analysis for security.  Guess what you should be talking about when you make an approach!

5. Think about where you are most likely to be seen by your target audience.  Again, this doesn't have to be hanging out on the street corner – unless that is the street corner where your target audience walks past to work every day or stops at to get their morning coffee.  Example: Company X might be better off just buying a small advertisement on the website of the professional organisation that Jo, the purchasing services manager belongs to – www.professionalservicespurchasing.org.au – rather than taking out an ad in the local paper. 

6. Think about what happens once your target audience becomes aware of your existence and wants to engage.  Make sure your website has a "contact us" section – and make sure any inquiries receive a quick response.  Make sure any information about your company is up to date – especially when it comes to contact details.

7. Don't forget the basics – first impressions DO matter.  Read Malcolm Gladwell's blink if you are uncertain what I mean.  The truth is that most people form an impression very quickly and if your website looks unprofessional – or your branding material looks amateurish, you might blow your chance of engagement in the first 10 seconds.

8. Consult a professional communications advisor because there are plenty of options.  It is strange to me how people will prioritise paying money to an accountant for financial advice or to a lawyer for legal advice, but then regard communication as something they can manage themselves. Depending on your background, you might well be able to manage.  But communications is a specialist field and spending a few dollars getting professional advice could be a very valuable investment.

Finally, don't give up.  You have to be persistent.  Sometimes you can do everything right and still not get the outcome you are seeking. But remember that building brand presence takes time and you will get value, even if it takes longer than you wished for – providing you remain consistent and follow my eight rules.