There was a time when you started a business and the first thing you did after putting up the shingle was to start building brand awareness. The first order of the day was to find a location. If it was a business that met with consumers you chose a location that was convenient for them to visit you. If you had a services business you like chose a location that was prestigious and would immediately impress those who crossed your threshold.
Next order of the day was to decorate. If your budget for decorating was several hundred or several thousand it was all to make you look competent and professional.
The on of course came your logo and marketing materials that you would distribute manually and using direct mail. You’d hire a professional graphic designer to help your brand image look like the large players in your category. It was key that a prospective customer have the right gut reaction when they first came into your circle. Brand image was recognized as essential for business success.
Then came along the “advertising budget.” How much were you willing to spend to build awareness of your new business? The marketing plan. Who are these people who will make your business a success? How do you reach them? What will it cost? I used to look at it from an individual cost perspective. I’d ask the question – “How much are you willing to give someone so that they become aware of you? Are you willing to give them a dollar, 50¢ or 5¢?” This was of course determined by the budget. If you had an audience of 10,000 people and a budget of $20,000 then you’d expect to pay 50¢ each and so on. How you spent that 50¢ was key. Was that 50¢ a one-time thing or would it have to spent over 6 months or more. No matter the size of the business it was an expensive process. But done well and by those who were well seasoned in the exercise, it could prove very effective over time. Brand awareness was and still is a long term strategy.
THEN, every small business played that game. Some were great at it and some sucked. It made brands and killed brands but the common denominator was brands had to spend money building awareness or fade away and their dreams with it.
TODAY, every business can play on the same playing field to some extent. Thanks to the web, businesses can build brand awareness for free. They can join other players on dozens of social media channels and build incredible opportunities. Free is a relative term on the web though . Free as far as parting with coin but not free in dedicating time. To run socially takes an enormous amount of time and coordination. Many businesses are dedicating their whole existence to web-based promotional efforts. And, of course they can also engage the services of seasoned pros who can help assist them at their web efforts and achieve goals in a quicker time-frame.
What astonishes me and influenced this post, are the businesses who in the face of free choose to do absolutely nothing about building brand awareness. Nothing. Then when nothing happens, they blame the economy, their customers (or lack there of) – never the fact that their frugality and lack of confidence is killing them. They continue to dream of course – that’s really all they have. You see them all around you.
Go to any live networking event – they’re the ones swimming the room, politely smiling but have nothing to add to conversations. They view networking as showing up and trolling the attendees and desiring new bodies each time they go – failing to understand that when all the same people keep attending the better it is to build relationships that will extend to referring you to their networks. Most of these events are free or close to it. They only want to do business with those attending. BIG brand awareness mistake – short sightedness.
To make brand awareness really work for you, you have to have a dynamic on AND offline exposure. They need to compliment each other. Together they are like a 1-2 punch. You have to be flexible enough to see opportunities and be willing to engage them. Don’t base your planning on what’s free or not. If you won’t invest in yourself why should you expect your customers to? As a friend of mine says, “If clients witness a lack of confidence they couple that with a lack of competence.”
Oh, so true.