Author: Sheila Kloefkorn, Pragmatic Marketing Inc
It seems there is a never-ending competition for customer mindshare. We all want prospective customers to consider our brand. But we also want them to know who we are and what we offer long before they make a purchase.
For many executives and product managers, the decision to focus marketing efforts on brand awareness or lead generation can feel like a constant wrestling match. On the one hand, brand marketing efforts help expand audience size. On the other hand, lead generation helps pinpoint a group of individuals who are willing to exchange their contact information for your content.
The good news is that you do not have to let awareness and lead generation tactics constantly battle it out. In fact, when used strategically and effectively, the two methods complement each other.
The key to determining the right balance between branding and lead generation is to realize that while each has a certain ebb and flow, the two strategies must work hand in hand to be effective.
To achieve the right balance, it’s important to understand the premise behind both marketing strategies. As you know, everything you do drives your brand: the quality of your product or service, the experience of using it, the way your company responds to problems, the way customers feel when they have an issue.
Loosely defined, brand awareness is your company’s visibility to the public. It is the emotions and attitude the public associates with your organization. When someone searches for a product or service within your industry, you want your company to come to mind.
Companies are increasingly focusing on branding via content marketing. HubSpot and Fast Company are two examples of companies that do it well.
HubSpot continuously produces useful branded content that has earned them widespread recognition and trust as an industry thought leader. From videos and white papers to webcasts and ebooks, HubSpot consistently develops content B2B audiences desire, while simultaneously promoting their brand. Even if viewers haven’t invested in the company’s software, it is likely they have downloaded a piece ofHubSpot’s valuable content.
And while it may feel like infographics are a dime a dozen, progressive media house Fast Company has figured out how to use them to inform (and entertain) its C-level audience with original and compelling content. Not only does Fast Company promote their brand by giving readers what they want in the form of powerful, quick chunks of information, but they also use social engagement to boost sharing and drive results.
To effectively increase brand awareness, several factors must first be in place.
Brand Foundation. Your company’s website is your brand’s foundation. Is it functional and user-friendly? Is content fresh, relevant and SEO-optimized? Make sure the landing pages and forms work and that your site is mobile responsive. And what about traditional marketing? Make sure your brochures and other printed materials are up to date so prospective customers can easily learn more about your products or services.
Message and Positioning. Be clear about the products or services you want to sell. What is your brand’s message? Does your product or service provide a solution to customer needs? More important, can you fully understand how your product or service works for the consumer?
Diverse Content. Once you have garnered attention, it’s important to actively engage with your customer. And engagement means content, such as social media, video, blogs, images, graphics, infographics and more. Not all customers look for you the same way, so make sure they can connect with you in a way that’s comfortable and appeals to their preferences.
Thought Leadership. Without question, today’s customers are a research generation. They thoroughly review items, visit multiple websites and scour background information before deciding to buy. As a trustworthy brand, you must prove yourself as a valuable resource and industry thought leader.
Capturing leads is one of the most crucial parts of content marketing. When done properly, high-quality, relevant content draws users in, enabling lead capture while simultaneously boosting your brand’s SEO rankings.
Lead generation usually results in a specific call to action, as well as a distinct value proposition. And while it does not always require brand awareness, lead generation is far more effective when the two are working hand in hand.
To be successful with lead-generation efforts, start with a solid plan that includes the following steps.
Plan your campaign. What do you want to achieve: leads or product sales? Be sure to further reinforce the purpose behind your content. Create downloadable opportunities for users to connect with you via landing pages, infographics, case studies or white papers.
Provide collateral. As a marketer, it’s important to understand the difference between a pull campaign and a push effort. Use collateral to drive leads and begin a nurture funnel. Remember, simply because someone is not a hot lead does not mean they are not worth the sales-cycle effort.
Gather and analyze data. Any time you encourage customers to sign up for a webinar or interact with one of your publications, you’re engaging them. And that means you are gathering data, plain and simple.
It Takes Two to Tango: A Careful, Yet Strategic, Dance
In this day and age, focusing on traditional marketing approaches to define and shape your brand is simply not enough. The key to any effective marketing plan is to discover the right balance between brand awareness and lead generation.
To further convince yourself, go online and scan through every big brand in the market such as GE, Accenture and Emerson and see how smoothly and seamlessly they have managed to combine these elements to create a perfect marketing plan.
Some Final Thoughts
Today’s brands cannot expect to generate leads and drive conversions for the foreseeable future if they are not also continuously enhancing awareness and building the credibility of their brand. Brand building and lead generation are interrelated. For ideal growth, you must use the right amounts of both. There should never be two polar sides in the process, but instead, a flexible range to achieve the right balance between the two.