In our not too distant past, start-ups and smaller brands had to fight and claw bigger brands for every lead utilizing traditional outbound marketing methods.
Costly indeed and, in many cases, it was nothing more than cost that kept many brands, whose products or services could have truly benefited consumers, from growing beyond the local or regional level.
But that was then and this is now. The internet has leveled the playing field and, in some markets, tilted it in favor of the little guys, without them having to mortgaging the farm just to be able to compete on level ground.
The beauty of the internet is the fact that there are no boundaries; therefore, no limitations to the awareness smaller brands are able to create for themselves doing so, quite often, in extremely short periods of time.
Another key is the internet affords us all the ability to not only reach an audience in real-time but also interact with them. This, my friends, is priceless.
While these are all positives, the internet can have the reverse effect resulting in no or slow growth for a start-up or small brand or, at the very least, damage control in the form of reputation management.
You see, the internet allows smaller brands to cast much wider nets than in the past.
Ah, but it also allows consumers to engage and interact with each other in real-time.
This means one or two bad reviews of a brand, or its product, service and/or customer service can spread rapidly across multiple social platforms and channels.
And this can be the catalyst that turns the lights out permanently for a small brand that can ill afford the costs associated with an online reputation management campaign (e.g. damage control.)
So, why not start-off on the most stable foundation you can afford to build, giving your small brand the best chance at avoiding the pitfalls others before you have succumbed to, and doing so in the most cost-effective and expeditious manner possible?
The essential keys to creating online brand awareness on a budget (or free)
If your brand has limited to no money to allocate towards a diverse roll-out campaign, then the best avenue of approach to take would be utilizing those resources that will give you more bang-for-your-buck.
With that being said, there are six essential ways a small brand can crack the doors open in their markets to give the public a look at their brand.
1. Social Media (SM) – There is no better way for a small brand to build brand awareness, authority, trust, evangelists, and build relationships and partnerships than SM. If you’re short on marketing dollars this task can be done for little cost other than time. The keys to SM are to have a consistent flow of unique, engaging, and diverse content to share, avoid placing focus on the brand only. Also, you must always give before you take and be human at all times.
2. Blog Outreach – Reaching out to others is a wonderful way to get some exposure. Just be sure to learn and follow the rules of proper etiquette. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t have a tremendous response at first. Socially follow, comment and share relevant and worthy content. Interact with influential people in your market and those that might just have some pull. Keep producing quality content for them to chew on and eventually you’ll start getting bites.
3. Web 2.0s – Oh how powerful these sites can be! Again, unique quality content needs to be used on these powerful sites. If you see a particular need, want, question or “how-to” that the market may be asking, give them answers in the form of content and spread it out to various 2.0 sites like Squidoo and HubPages.
4. Forums – Spending the time to find a few niche relevant forums is well worth it, provided you understand that niche specific forums can be small and, at times, it takes a little more interaction and time to build up relationships. To build brand awareness, providing time to forums will do just that.
5. Business Directories – There are plenty of free business directories out there that focus on local, regional, state, national and global businesses. In some cases, they can be niche specific. Spending time seeking these out can prove to be time well spent. The better your listing, the better response you’ll receive.
6. Your OWN blog – Least we not forget our own pieces of valuable online real estate, your blog is not only a reflection of your company but also its personality. There is no better way to showcase both than to do so on-site. Mix-up your content, meaning use more than text. There are videos (even simple text videos work), infographics (yes simple ones can be made for free), images, case studies, white-papers, and more.
Well there you have it, six affordable ways to help you create brand awareness.
Who said exposure has to come at a great expense?
If there is one commonality between the above six mentioned ways to increase brand awareness, content is what will kick off your brand online.
But not just any content will do. You’ll need content that’s unique, diverse, informative and engaging if your small brand has any hope of generating the online buzz that can help it compete on a totally different level.
It does not end at just the creation of content. Rather content must be managed, tracked, analyzed and consistently monitored in order to maximize your return. Really there is no negotiating this point.
One other thing we can take from all of this information is that consistency should also play a vital role in any marketing campaign. Don’t try to skip corners here. Find your rhythm and stick to it. If your company can only generate say three pieces of content a week then make sure you’re consistently producing and sharing content three times a week.
By implementing these effective methods you should be in a much better position than just throwing things against the wall and hoping they’ll stick.
No, these methods are tried and true ways a smaller brand like yours can garnish itself some much-needed brand awareness on a budget.
Andrew Lorton is Co-Founder of OIRMS, a boutique digital marketing firm that specializes in online brand development. Having had the opportunity to learn, create and implement multiple methods of creating online exposure that results in revenue generation from diverse streams, allows Andrew to offer his diverse skill-set and experience to OIRMS’ valued clients.
What he enjoys most though is sharing his knowledge with others who may not have large marketing budgets (especially non-profits) and those who are forced to either supplement their incomes or earn a full-time income online due to unemployment or disabilities.