As a marketer, you’re called upon to generate a lot of measurable results. Your success may be measured in metrics like website visitors, marketing-qualified leads generated, revenue, and return-on-investment.
While brand awareness–the percentage of your target market who are aware of your brand, services or products–is less measurable, it’s still critically important.
In fact, a lack of brand awareness is probably the root cause of all of your marketing woes. Lackluster leads, zero customer engagement, and nonexistent brand recognition can all be traced back to poor brand awareness.
UNDERSTANDING THE VALUE OF B2B BRAND AWARENESS
While brand awareness is measurable, it’s not a concrete benchmark like other B2B marketing success measures–you can’t easily calculate and graph awareness results month-over-month like you can with leads generated.
However, the following research and stats illustrate that it’s still critically valuable, especially for business-to-business (B2B) brands:
89% of B2B marketers say brand awareness is their most important goal, ahead of sales or lead generation.
91% of B2B marketers use content marketing to promote brand awareness.
B2B companies with brands that are perceived as strong generate higher earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) profitability margins.
On average, 5 to 7 brand impressions are necessary before a prospect will remember your brand. Awareness is connected to more than just recognition–it also plays into the extent your audience is willing to trust your brand.
B2B brands with strong awareness have better audiences, trust, referral, and according to research, profitability because they’ve secured awareness. Hitting your marketing success metrics out of the park requires B2B marketers to take a systemic approach to building brand awareness as a core goal of their marketing strategy. Here’s how.
8 Essential Brand Awareness Activities for B2B
1. CREATE CONTENT PRAISING YOUR CUSTOMERS
Do you have a customer doing something worth talking about? Does your product or service help them in some way?
Creating video spotlights or case studies on your customers should talk about what your customers are doing, not what you’re doing to help them. Your audience will understand how your products or services are helping. In fact, 83% of consumers trust recommendations from their peers over advertising.
Showcasing your client’s accomplishments can create authentic, highly-shareable content that resonates with your audience and is perceived as more trustworthy than a case study that heavily spotlights your brand’s intervention.
2. CREATE BEHIND-THE-SCENES VIDEOS
A recent Forbes headline declared “Authenticity In Marketing Matters Now More Than Ever.”
In the age of data breaches and brand scandals, honesty really is the best policy. According to recent surveys, customers identify authenticity as a top quality that attracts them to a brand. One of the best ways to cast a light of authenticity and trust around your brand is to provide a behind-the-scenes video look at how you work.
Legendary Marketer Gary Vaynerchuk recently delivered a behind-the-scenes look at how his popular video series #AskGaryVee is made, earning tens of thousands of views in the process.
Other B2B brands who’ve delivered incredible, authentic video content on YouTube include LinkedIn’s behind-the-scenes look at their B2B Dinner for Five series, and IBM’s up-close-and-personal look at how Grammy award-winning producer Alex Da Kid collaborated with Watson to turn data into cognitive music.
3. GIVE VALUE FOR FREE
B2B marketers understand the importance of providing high-value content marketing for free, to build brand awareness, trust, and establish thought leadership. However, raising the bar even higher than your existing research-driven blog articles, white papers, and eBooks may be an important strategic tool.
74% of B2B decision-makers consider original research influential, according to CMI/SmartBrief. Arguably, research-driven content is the single most valuable form of branded content, second only to peer recommendations.
Our client built awareness around their trademark search software by producing a magazine-style report on the latest happenings in the global trademark world, including in-depth analysis of new laws and regulations. This very detailed report had content that was just as valuable as insights their clients in the legal field would pay for from a research firm.
Their decision to give away this research-driven content for free and make it a recurring periodical showed their commitment to delivering more value than their competitors.
4. DON’T BE AFRAID TO BE A COMPANY WITH A FACE
As humans, we’re not necessarily built to form connections with brands. We form connections more easily with people, including characters. B2B shouldn’t be afraid to be a company of “faces.” Strategic Revolution’s Samantha Gold writes “By adding a face to your brand you will allow consumers to have a relationship with your brand.”
There’s no shortage of examples of beloved brand “faces” in B2C. Think of:
The Verizon Guy
Flo from Progressive
Peyton Manning for Nationwide
The Allstate “You’re In Good Hands” guy
However, this is already happening in B2B even if you haven’t noticed it. Think of Gary Vaynerchuk. Can you name anyone else who works at his company, Vayner Media? Chances are, you only know him since he’s his company’s face. Same goes for Marcus Sheridan, the Sales Lion. While HubSpot CTO Dharmesh Shah isn’t the only face or voice of HubSpot, his presence in media and on his inbound.org project have made him one of the most visible faces of his company.
If you choose to assign a face and voice to your B2B brand, this is NOT the same as building a personal brand. It’s a brand awareness activity. When people think of your company, if a person is the first one they know and remember, that’s great. It builds trust and connection.
5. ELEVATE A UNIQUE, INFLUENTIAL VOICE
The person who serves as the “face” of your B2B brand doesn’t need to be the CEO, CMO, or in any other leadership role, necessarily. They may just be someone with significant expertise and a unique perspective. ADP’s Business Anthropologist Dr. Martha Bird has assumed a prominent role in media and public relations, due to her background in cultural anthropology and valuable insights into concepts like employee experience.
In other cases, the most effective way to build brand awareness can be the choice to hire a face who already has an audience, influence, and thought leadership. Guy Kawasaki built credibility in his role as Chief Evangelist for Apple and author career, and currently serves as Chief Evangelist for the simple, online design tool Canva.
6. REACH OUT TO TRUSTED CONTENT SOURCES
While publishing content on “owned” marketing channels like your website, blog, and social media can help you build awareness, you may build exposure and audience trust more quickly if you establish relationships with publications that are already trusted by your audience.
The value of publishing B2B content through visible media sources has contributed to the massive success of Forbes BrandVoice, a paid content distribution platform used by massive B2B brands like SAP and HP to publish original, brand-authored content directly on Forbes’ website. While this particular program can be cost-prohibitive for small and mid-sized (SMB) companies, you can emulate its success tactics using lower-cost methodologies:
Author Guest Blogs: Forget every sketchy SEO tactic you embraced in 2011, when it was all the rage to publish rapid-fire guest posts far and wide to earn a backlink. Today’s most effective guest blogging strategies rely on industry relationships and carefully-authored content to publish well-placed perspectives on the right industry websites.
Earn a Spot in Industry Publications. Author occasional, or regular, contributions to industry publications, including magazines, newsletters, technical journals, or locally-focused content.
Respond to Queries: Connect with journalists from legitimate media sources to answer questions and earn quotations in news articles. The free, online resources Help a Reporter Out (HARO) allows industry experts to respond to source requests from journalists, including media at sources such as Reuters, Time, and the Wall Street Journal.
7. PARTICIPATE IN LIVE EVENTS
B2B brands have historically participated in live events such as conferences or trade shows, but paying for a booth at these events doesn’t always yield returns on investment. The most effective way to build brand awareness through participating in live events could be by securing a spot as a speaker.
Actively apply to present unique perspectives at industry conferences and tradeshows, while working to build the thought leadership necessary to become a sought-after speaker for live events.
Earning speaking opportunities requires thought leadership-building activities, many of which run in parallel to brand awareness-building activities. Learn more in The 3 Steps to Becoming a Respected Thought Leader.
8. BECOME SOCIALLY-ENGAGED
Giving back to your community and causes that align with your brand’s values is the right thing to do. It’s also, as Dunn&Bradstreet highlights, an opportunity to network with other philanthropic business professionals and increase your businesses’ social responsibility.
CREATING A BRAND AWARENESS STRATEGY FOR B2B
When it comes to building brand awareness for B2B, marketers are wise to think about activities as part of an awareness-building strategy instead of stand-alone tactics for awareness.
As marketing entrepreneur Donny Kemick points out, “the abundance of online tools or tactics at your disposal can be a double-edged sword.” The good news? Your brand doesn’t have to invest in high-cost billboards or television ads to build awareness. The bad news? Making the most of the low-cost, digital options for building brand awareness may not pay off if you don’t understand the value of B2B brand awareness or your long-term strategy for recognition.
Ultimately the most effective brand awareness activities will focus on building exposure, trust, and thought leadership, while maintaining your team’s progress towards goals of website traffic, leads generated, and revenue. By understanding how your audience researches and learns online, you can increase your presence and authority on the right digital channels.