Marketing campaigns can be used to accomplish a countless number of goals.
While many B2B companies choose to focus on high-impact, measurable goals like generating leads and sales, it’s important to remember that these actions are often the result of weeks, if not months of research and deliberation on the customer’s part (AKA the buyer’s journey).
If you want to affect these end-game numbers, you have to start at the beginning.
The first step each customer takes on the path to conversion is simply becoming aware of your brand. So, if you’re not yet using marketing campaigns to improve your brand awareness and reach new customers, it’s time to start.
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Why Does Brand Awareness Matter?
If brand awareness isn’t yet a priority in your B2B marketing strategy, you may be wondering if improving it's even a worthwhile goal. After all, you’re probably thinking, merely making a prospective client aware of the company doesn’t drive revenue.
And it’s true: awareness doesn’t guarantee an instant sale. But it is an essential first step in the sales process, and it can have a major impact on whether a prospect decides to learn more about your company and what you have to offer, or walk away.
It’s also important to note that driving awareness doesn’t just mean getting your name in front of your target audience. That’s because your brand is much more than your company’s name and logo. It's how consumers perceive your company, products, and services, and where you stand amidst the competition.
So, as you look for ways to drive and measure awareness, don’t focus solely on reach. Instead, focus on creating the types of positive associations you want people to have with your brand.
Wait a minute, you're now thinking. Isn’t creating warm fuzzies primarily a B2C concern?
Many marketers believe that establishing emotional connections only matters for selling directly to individual consumers. That’s simply not the case. Although it’s true that B2B purchasing decisions are typically made by a team and not by one single person, that team is ultimately made up of people—and the way that each of them feels about your brand can be the determining factor in whether they choose to work with you or not.
Plus, even after you’ve earned a new client, brand perception can shape whether they stay with you or switch to a competitor. In fact, one Econsultancy survey found that 49% of B2B marketers achieve better ROI by investing in relationships over acquisition marketing, so improving your retention rates could have a significant impact on your overall revenue.
If reaching new prospective clients and shaping their perceptions of your brand aren’t yet goals in your marketing strategy, it may be time to pivot.
Trust us, it’s not as complicated or time-consuming as it may sound, and the investment you make in these campaigns can actually fuel the rest of your funnel. As you create awareness-stage content, you can also repurpose it for other marketing goals to get more bang for your buck.
For example, let’s say you create a video about your brand and what sets you apart from your competitors. It likely includes information about your company history, mission, and employees. It may seem like this video is only useful for brand awareness, but if you write case studies, blog posts, or other long-form content as lead magnets, you could easily work your video in as a way to highlight why your company was uniquely equipped to solve a customer problem or a specific pain point within the industry.
By repurposing awareness-level content, you can make the most of each piece and make the experience of engaging with your brand as consistent as possible.
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4 Ways B2B Companies Can Improve Brand Awareness
Shaping perceptions of your brand can be a challenging task. Many consumers already have preconceived notions of what a company represents before they engage with a single employee, and changing those notions isn’t always easy.
But with a strategic approach to brand awareness, it’s entirely possible to reach members of your target audience in ways that create positive associations with your company and show them what your brand really stands for.
1. Be Active on Social Media
One of the best strategies for improving brand awareness is maintaining an active presence on social media.
Much like brand awareness campaigns as a whole, social media marketing is sometimes considered a strategy that’s primarily beneficial for B2C marketers. But now that 69% of American adults use social media, virtually every business in existence can benefit from appearing on these platforms.
No matter who your target audience is, there’s a very strong chance that at least a portion of them are active on social media. The most obvious advantage, then, of using top social media sites is that they have the potential to get your brand in front of a large, established user base.
In fact, according to Social Media Examiner’s 2018 Social Media Marketing Industry report, 83% of marketers who have been using social media marketing for at least one year say it’s generated exposure for their business.
Given these platforms’ large user bases, this may not come as a huge surprise. But it’s also worth noting that an increase in leads often accompanies this increased exposure.
In the same survey, 65% of marketers who’ve been using social media marketing for at least two years say it has generated leads for their business.
So, if your company has previously avoided social media for fear of low ROI, that doesn’t need to be the case. And in terms of brand associations, you may be surprised to learn that according to the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer, 62% of people trust a brand’s social media more than its advertising. This alone could justify adding social media to your marketing strategy.
If you’re not sure where to begin, LinkedIn is a solid starting point for any B2B brand. Today, it’s also the most popular and is used by 97% of B2B marketers who use social media as part of their marketing strategies.
2. Show Some Personality
Choosing channels for your brand awareness campaigns is an important step in the process, but it’s the content itself that ultimately determines whether you succeed or not. If it’s boring, uninformative, or disingenuous, it’s not going to do you any favors.
Before you publish your first social media post or write your first set of ad copy, you need to determine what kind of associations with your brand you want to create.
Do you want prospective clients to think of your brand as innovative?
The attributes you focus on will play a significant role in shaping the content you create, so it’s important to have a clear idea of those attributes early in your campaigns.
Of course, this decision should be based on your target audience and their expectations. B2B brands targeting start-ups, for example, can get away with more snark and playfulness than those focused on larger corporations with older, more buttoned-up executives.
The whole point of building brand awareness is to ultimately build trust—alienating half of your prospects definitely won't help.
When all else fails, be real and sincere. These are traits that all consumers, whether they are B2C or B2B, are coming to value more and more. In fact, according to a 2017 study from Sprout Social, honesty actually is the best policy:
As you determine the kind of reputation you want to create, it’s essential that your brand remains unique. The vast majority of B2B companies want their brand to come across as "professional" and "trustworthy"—great in theory, but there needs to be more to it. If associating your brand with these common attributes is your only goal, it’s unlikely that your campaigns will have much of an impact.
To reach your goals, you’ll need to determine what differentiates your brand from the pack. Then, you can use those differentiating factors to shape a unique brand voice. This will not only give you a more concrete idea of the kinds of content to include in your campaigns, but it will also help you stand out to your audience. And as you establish your brand as different and interesting, you’ll also become more memorable to prospective clients.
3. Create Original Content
Content marketing is an extremely popular strategy among B2B marketers. In fact, Content Marketing Institute’s 2018 B2B Content Marketing report found that 91% of B2B organizations are already using it.
The same survey found that of the B2B marketers who aren’t yet using content marketing, 54% plan to launch a content marketing strategy within the next 12 months.
If you’re an experienced B2B marketer, you’re probably well aware of the value of content marketing for generating leads and driving sales; you may even have a strategy in place. But are you aware of content marketing’s potential impact on brand awareness?
On a technical level, creating original content related to your audience’s questions and needs gives you the opportunity to rank in search results for the keywords they search on Google and other search engines. In some cases, this will be their first introduction to your brand.
If a member of your target audience then clicks through to your site as the result of a search and likes the content they find, you can establish your brand as a helpful source of information right from the start. Even if they aren’t yet ready to make a purchase or other high-level conversion, you’ve still created a positive association with your brand.
Then, when they are ready to evaluate their options and make a decision, there’s a much better chance your company will be included in the process—and the information you’ve already provided just might tip the scale in your favor.
Remember, it's all about that buyer's journey:
It’s also worth noting that unlike paid campaigns on third-party platforms, it doesn’t cost much to continue attracting organic traffic and leads with content once you’ve published it. While ad campaigns typically show results faster, content marketing has the potential to be a more cost-effective strategy long-term and can help you create a lasting resource for your audience.
Plus, as you create original material for your content marketing efforts, you can also repurpose it to strengthen your other marketing strategies, as mentioned earlier. For example, videos featuring customer testimonials and reviews are a popular content format for B2B brands. And once you’ve created them, you can easily share them to your social accounts to build trust with your followers.
So, although creating original content is an investment in terms of time and resources, it’s one that can pay off in many ways for your business and have a positive impact on your marketing campaigns across the board.
4. Develop an Outreach Strategy
Your company’s website and social media channels are excellent starting points for a brand awareness campaign. You have complete control over what’s published and how it’s promoted to your target audience. But once you’ve developed a strategy for managing them, you need to start increasing your reach to other channels.
The best places to focus on are where your audience already spends time online.
If you make it a priority to keep up with industry news and trends, you likely already know exactly where that is. For most B2B audiences, it’s a combination of major news outlets and smaller, more niche industry publications. Getting your brand mentioned on those sites can be an extremely effective way to reach prospective clients. That’s where an outreach strategy has the potential to be a great addition to your brand awareness efforts.
Once you’ve determined your target sites, look for ways to provide value to their audience. If you’re already publishing original content on a regular basis, this can serve as a solid starting point. For example, if you’ve conducted original research, collected helpful data, or put together an interesting case study, publications that focus on your industry may want to share this information with their readers.
Reach out to their editors with a brief pitch explaining what you have to offer, and they may reward you with a valuable brand mention that not only gets your company in front of a relevant audience, but positions it as an industry leader.
If you’re not sure where to begin with your outreach efforts, you can also use HARO to connect with journalists. Sign up as a source for topics related to your industry, and you’ll receive daily emails with lists of information requests from writers across the Web.
If you’re able to provide the information a journalist is looking for, you’ll get credited as a source—and in many cases, that also means getting a link back to your company’s site.
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Improving brand awareness is a goal that’s often overlooked by B2B marketers, but it can have a significant impact on their ability to reach and retain new clients. If you’re not yet taking steps to create positive associations with your brand among your target audience, a brand awareness campaign could be a great addition to your marketing strategy.
Fortunately, achieving the results you want doesn’t need to be difficult. Be active on social media, don’t be afraid to show some personality, create original content, and look for ways to get your brand published on the sites where your audience spends time online.
These four steps can go a long way in shaping perceptions of your brand and what it stands for—and in bringing valuable new clients to your company.