Marketing strategies today rely heavily on lead generation campaigns. Many companies allocate marketing money primarily, or even exclusively, to efforts that generate names. Yet in reality, lead gen without increasing company recognition and product awareness is simply not effective. This inefficacy exists because of the change that has recently occurred in buyer behaviors.
In the past, marketers had an opportunity to educate people. People were interested in engaging with a company to learn about a product, and that process allowed companies to immediately start to sell because prospects were easy to identify and reach. The challenge with new buying behaviors is that now prospects want to do their own research, self-educate and come up with their short list of products before they ever reach out and start engaging with a company. The basic problem – at a high level for both parties – is that the buyer may not know all the brands or products they should be evaluating to put on their short list. Conversely, if companies are not doing anything to reach this unknown population, they’re not going to be able to get on those lists.
This is why brand awareness is so important for consumers; if a brand is not overly visible and lacks broad distribution and reviews, people will not be able to find it. Some industries, such as software for example, have more of a contained audience that may be easier to identify, but if marketers only try to talk to a known population, they’re never going to connect with the population they most need to reach.
For marketers it boils down to this: if you’re not thinking about your unknown population (consumers you have yet to identify), and especially if you don’t have a big brand, then you are going to be spending lead gen dollars talking to only a small percentage of your potential market. To counter this, you need to be reallocating marketing dollars on programs that will increase your visibility and get your product in front of those “unknown” people before they start making buying decisions.
When marketers plan syndication programs or go to a trade show, part of the challenge is that you’re asking for someone to register or walk up and give you their name – but that’s counter to how today’s buyers behave. They’re only going engage when they’re ready, typically after they’ve done their education and made some initial decisions. How many people have walked up to a booth lately and said, “No I don’t want to be scanned”? Maybe they’re not really a prospect. More likely, because of the misbehavior of many companies they know that when their name is given out the company will start to try to sell to them – a behavior trend that has essentially backfired on the industry.
If all you’re doing is spending money on programs that are going to give you names, leads, you’re not going to reach those people who are early in the buying process and not ready to engage with you but still need to be educated by you. Without spending some money on increasing awareness, your lead gen efforts are not nearly as effective as they should be.
Build Awareness First
If you’re stuck in a traditional environment where the metric of leads drives marketing spend, the first thing you need to do is try new methods.
In large part, this is a content question. Understand there are prospects out there who may not know all the brands in a particular market. As a marketer, you need to be able to communicate very succinctly what you do and what value you provide – and you need to do so by providing ungated education materials that are easy to find and access. Providing educational (and even promotional) material that gets syndicated without the expectations of leads – distribution channels where you’re not asking for somebody’s name – is key.
To drive awareness and help identify a potential unknown population, don’t be afraid to spend money to engage with communities. Seek the involvement of third-parties to find/connect with potential (unidentified) populations.
- Participate in forums around a particular topic. Being active in a discussion will help establish your company reputation as knowledgeable and involved.
- Educate the experts. Analysts, media and industry thought leaders all share opinions and perspectives with broad audiences and small engaged groups.
- Go to industry events. Be visible and communicate what you’re doing and the business value of your company. Do not attend to just scan attendee badges.
- Participate / Sponsoring meetups. Again, this is not about collecting leads. Be involved in the dialog where practitioners are discussing and trying to address problems.
- Connect with people who will connect with other people, either directly or indirectly.
As you think strategically about how to allocate marketing dollars for awareness, make sure you’re spending some of the money on programs that educate the market. Publish solid content that is educational in nature and connects your brand with a particular market and the characteristics of that market. Content and non-sales efforts to engage with various active third-parties will raise awareness of the overall industry composition and relevant factors that prospects and buyers need to understand when making purchasing decisions.