Just think about it. How many times have you shopped, and ended up picking a product you’ve never heard about before?

 

Now, compare that with the number of times you’ve gone for that specific item you can relate with.

 

Not much of a comparison, is it? Ok, let’s be fair and introduce something extra to balance out the parameters in these two scenarios.

 

Well, remember that time you went to a convenience store to buy a product you had no idea about? Then on the shelf were several almost similar versions of the product, each from a different company?

 

Confusing, right? I know the feeling.

branding selection

So, to help yourself out, you decide to call the attendant. But, just as you raise your arm, you spot a brand you’ve heard about before.

 

All the other versions of the product are quite unfamiliar. But there’s this specific one you’ve seen before.

 

I’d love to know what you’d do at this point. Proceed to seek help from the attendant? Or drop the whole idea altogether, go for that familiar brand, and move on with the rest of the shopping?

 

Chances are, you won’t even think much. You’ll probably just pick that specific brand without worrying that others could potentially be superior.

 

Let’s face it. That’s the mind of a typical consumer. That’s why 77% of marketers agree that brand awareness is fundamentally important to future growth.

The Importance of Creating Brand Awareness

Creating brand awareness is the reason why large enterprises like Coca-Cola seem to be everywhere.  

 

You might hate the fact that its all-too repetitive commercials are persistently interrupting your TV viewing time.

 

But, admit it. Coca-Cola is the first thing on your mind each time someone drops the word “soda”. Even when you know very well that your taste buds would appreciate a different brand.

 

That’s the sheer power of brand marketing.

 

You thought selling should be your principal focus? Well, get this. 70% of brand managers say that rallying an audience around your brand is far more important than converting sales.

 

Ok, this is where you pause for a minute. Oh, no they didn’t dare. Who would have the nerve to make such a claim?

 

If you went through the 2017 State of Branding Report by Onbrand, you’d notice that the survey respondents were essentially marketing decision makers. They know their stuff.

 

Still doubt it?

 

Consider this. Back in 2009, Adobe expanded to the e-commerce and digital marketing space. They acquired Omniture, and dived head first into an industry already dominated by the likes of Oracle and IBM.

 

As a relatively new solution, Omniture had no chance against its established competitors. But, something came up in 2012 that shook the entire industry.

 

No. Omniture didn’t boost its features to surpass its competitors. And no, IBM and Oracle didn’t close shop.

 

Here’s the interesting bit. Adobe simply retired the name Omniture and shifted to Adobe Marketing Cloud.

 

Now, that was the ultimate turning point. Because everyone, particularly digital entrepreneurs, recognizes the name Adobe.

 

I won’t deny that feature upgrades in the system had something to do with its subsequent exponential growth. Or the fact that IBM, Oracle, and Salesforce have been putting up a notable fight.

 

But, let’s not ignore the fundamental point here. That the name Adobe has been the primary attraction for its ever-growing user base.

 

By 2017, according to the then Gartner Magic Quadrant for Multichannel Campaign Management report, Adobe ultimately overtook its predecessors. In a space, it previously had nothing to do with. Then became the overall market leader.

 

The bottom line?

 

You’ve probably figured it out by now. That the whole point of a branding strategy is establishing trust. Then using that as a stepping stone to build a following. And that’s when you’ll be able to seamlessly convert the corresponding opportunities into sales.

 

As a matter of fact, the bulk of CMOs can attest to this:

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But, there’s one problem.

 

So, let’s address the elephant in the room.

The Problem With Creating Brand Awareness

 

I know. I’ve only mentioned large enterprises.

 

And I assume it makes sense to you. At least to a certain extent. Because brand awareness is seemingly a game for the big guns. Only large enterprises with enough money to splash around.

 

Well, I understand why you’d feel that way. And for what it’s worth, you’re not alone in this school of thought. Most people actually assume creating brand awareness needs money. Loads and loads of it.

 

To be fair, that was true at some point. When TVs and newspapers were the primary sources of information.

 

But not anymore. That period is long gone. The internet has not only expanded the audience base. It has also drastically changed how we approach brand awareness.

 

Of course, you could spend some bucks on it to market your brand. But one thing’s for sure. You could as well achieve extensive brand awareness without spending a dime.

 

Yes, totally free of charge. That’s the magic of the web.

 

And for clarity’s sake, I’ve only used large brands as examples to drive the point home. Because everyone can relate to Coke and Adobe, right?

 

I tell you what though. I’m willing to share my story. Just to show you that a small time business can make it too.

 

Now, a while back, I found a clever way to wake people up. I developed an iOS app that would help you deal with all the sluggishness in the morning.

 

It pretty much woke people up with engaging puzzle games. So, to keep things simple, I named it Game UP Alarm Clock.

 

Yes, you’re right. My friends loved it. But I had a huge problem. A significant hurdle ahead of me.

 

You see, my friends were barely enough to make up 20 users. I had to find a way to create widespread awareness.  But I could not afford to spend even a fraction of what large enterprises use for marketing just an app update.

 

So I turned to what I knew I could do best. Doing it for free through SEO.

 

With the right tactics, I was able to spread the word quite extensively. Media houses interviewed me, and tech authority sites like Lifehack featured the app.

 

Then awareness developed into trust. And trust gave rise to converted sales.

 

Eventually, Game Up Alarm Clock became a top 12 app in the US, 7 in Japan, and 3 in Ukraine for Utilities.

 

This taught me that free is the way to go. If anything, 59% of consumers don’t trust sponsored campaigns.

 

The best way to capture their attention and generate an organic following around your brand is leveraging SEO. And we’re not talking about typical run-of-the-mill strategies.  

 

I am all about using proven tactics to promote your business. And yes, I’ll walk you through all that.

 

But, before we do, let’s get the basics right.

How Your Brand Fits Into Moments

We’ve seen how Google algorithms are developing at an astronomical rate. The main objective has always been improving the overall user experience.

 

And one way it currently does this is identifying distinct micro-moments;

  • Want-to-buy moments
  • Want-to-do moments
  • Want-to-go moments
  • Want-to-know moments

 

Think about it this way. All Google users live through these micro-moments. They might change from time to time. But the bottom line is that you’re definitely in one of them as you run a search.

 

How’s that?

 

Well, let’s see how Google explains it:

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Does it all make sense now? It really is that simple.

 

So, what am I driving at?

 

Basically, your brand will appear in the search results if you effectively interpret such moments through SEO.

Let’s see how you can do this…

Tell Compelling Brand Stories

Allow me to take you back to 2016.

 

Can you guess what closed the year as the world’s highest selling album? Ok, I’ll give you a hint. It was composed around an infidelity theme, taking listeners through various stages a victim goes through. From discovery all the way to forgiveness.

 

Yes, you’re dead right. Beyonce’s Lemonade album.

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Admit it. This was an unusual one, to say the least. No, at least not because of the fact that it was a visual album. We’ve seen that concept quite a couple of times now.

 

Its success had everything to do with the story surrounding it. It was emotional. And most importantly, admittedly compelling to the pop culture audience.

 

It turns out that the plot started unrolling as early as 2014. A rather controversial video was leaked, showing an infuriated Solange (Beyonce’s sister) fighting the singer’s husband, JayZ.

 

The web was excited. And the video went viral. Consequently triggering rumors that perhaps the husband might have been unfaithful to the singer.

 

And for two years, the rumors were just that. Nothing more than hearsay gossip, which only increased overall curiosity.

 

Then boom! The album dropped and it let the cat out of the bag. Everything was confirmed and the singer even revealed further details.

 

The result? Let’s just say that the storyline was worth over $50 million. Since the album ultimately sold more than 2.5 million copies.

 

Now, this is a perfect example of how compelling brand stories can build a substantial online following. You just have to find a way to connect with your target audience. Through stories that actually matter to them.

 

This is precisely where content marketing comes in.

 

Take prospects within the want-to-do micro-moments for instance. They could very much use educative content.

 

Their want-to-do counterparts, on the other hand, would be more interested in entertaining pieces.

 

But one story is never enough. You have to do regular engagement stories spreading across multiple moments. 47% of consumers usually view about 3-5 content pieces before proceeding to buy.

 

Thanks to such consumer behavior, marketers prioritizing on blogs usually attract 13 times more leads. Certainly one of the most effective ways to get noticed by Google and create brand awareness.

 

And you know what? Any content doesn’t cut it. It has to provide actual value. Coming to think of this, it makes sense why the average length of Google’s top content pieces is 1,140-1285 words.

 

That said, you have to admit that written words alone might be bland. And Google knows this. That’s why its algorithm goes further to factor in other content types.

 

I’m talking about things like videos, infographics and images. Precisely what your audience would be interested in.

 

So far, we’ve seen blog articles with images attract about 94% more views. You could say we all like our articles with some dose of graphics and pomp.  

Optimize Social Media Engagement

 

Social media is, by far, the most expansive online platform today. No doubt about that. It hosts more than 2.5 billion users and still growing.

 

Then, going by the fact that users are increasingly registering multiple accounts, the overall number of accounts might soon surpass the total human population. Fascinating, huh?

 

What does this mean?

 

Well, of course, companies like Facebook will continue keeping their accountants busy. And so will your business, if you tactfully capitalize on this opportunity.

 

You’ve probably seen how enterprises have been trying to do this.

 

From 2008, up until sometime in 2015, they were particularly fond of Facebook. They overwhelmingly registered pages and bombarded users with brand messages.

 

And to be honest, some of them actually got impressive results. That’s why 92% of marketers, by 2014, were already convinced that social media was extremely important for their businesses.

 

Until Facebook finally decided enough is enough. According to them, users’ timelines were predominantly filled with irrelevant content from multiple brand pages.

 

So, in response, they scaled down organic page posts. Then users started connecting more with their actual friends than brand pages.

 

It also meant more income for Facebook. I actually believe that this might have their principal objective.

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Source: ConvinceandConconvert

 

But, let’s save that debate for later. And focus on the bottom line instead. That social media engagement for brands has changed drastically.

 

Even Youtube and Twitter joined the bandwagon with algorithm changes that favor user connection over brand engagement.

 

Consequently, social media organic reach for brands has dropped sharply in recent years. The Financial Times, for instance, reported a 42% decline in organic Facebook reach.

 

Marketing Land also did a follow-up assessment and established a 52% drop.

 

Quite devastating, right?

 

Wrong! The most strategic brand marketers actually love this. Because it gets rid of the spam and bots. Then leaves the game to the real gurus who understand what brand awareness is all about.

 

So, no. You don’t have to pay even a dime to promote your brand on social media.

 

The secret is pretty straightforward. Simply dance to their tune.

 

Instead of fighting their user–optimized engagement algorithms, find ways to leverage it to boost your brand.

 

Take Facebook, for example. Content shared by a user will ultimately be posted to all their friends’ timelines. And the more the engagement frequency on that post, the wider Facebook’s algorithm will spread it.

 

Now, which specific content type can’t social media users get enough of?

 

Yes, of course. Videos.

 

55% of internet users watch online videos on a regular basis. And Facebook is responsible for about 8 billion video views every day.

 

Catch my drift? Your page post might only reach a fraction of your followers. But, if it’s a compelling video, they’ll watch it and subsequently share with to their friends. Who’ll then watch it and the cycle continues.

 

Even Facebook agrees that videos engage way more prospects than other content types. Including photos, regular status updates, and links.

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Source: Facebook

Reach Out To Influencers

One thing that large businesses might have an edge over you in is celebrity advertising.

 

And from what we’ve seen in the past, some of these celebs have cult-like followings. They might even be more popular than Santa. Or the Eiffel Tower.

 

It’s understandable that they possibly seem like a buffet rich in prospects at first. That’s why they charge money that would only come by if you robbed a bank.

 

But, take a minute and think again.

 

Going by recent trends in band marketing, most people can actually see through their paid promotions. As a result, prospects end up ignoring everything altogether.

 

Mainstream celebrities have been overtaken by digital influencers, who now sit at the top of the brand marketing food chain. And no, not by a foot or two. But by several miles.

 

Consider this. 30% of consumers are more likely to purchase items suggested by influencers, as opposed to celebrities.

 

All because of one simple reason. Individuals essentially feel more connected to non-celebrities.

 

Collective Bias even conducted a study on this by interviewing more than 14,000 consumers based in the US. It subsequently established that 70% of the millennials consider peer recommendations in the whole buying process.

 

Now, this is literally driving all marketers insane. Everyone now wants in on the action. Hence the following remarks on the developing role of influencer marketing:

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Source: Statista

 

Pretty exciting, right?

 

But, hold your horses for now. While this type of marketing is proving to be increasingly effective, not all influencers would be ideal for your brand.

 

Secondly, remember we are only reviewing free tactics? So, no, you will not be paying anyone.

 

Where does that leave you?

 

Simple. Just search widely and reach out to your friends in high places. But focus only on selected influential websites that are relevant to your business field. That’s how you generate organic interest in your brand.

A thoughtful approach would be running a parallel complementary campaign along with your influential partners. Promoting their brand as they push for yours is a good way to keep your marketing invoice at zero.

Distribute Valuable Guest Content

Remember those few occasions your school hosted guest speakers?

 

What did you think of them?

 

Well, I admit that I didn’t actually recognize more than half of my share of speakers. But, I always thought of them as big shots for being invited to such platforms.

 

And, of course, I’ve always remembered the talks that were exceptionally captivating.

 

Undeniably, that’s pretty much how guest posting goes.

 

Just one small exception. Don’t hold your breath for an invitation. Or you might be waiting around till a second big bang.

 

Take your time to scour the web for the most outstanding platforms that are relevant to your field. Then reach out to their editors with your guest content proposal, and see how it goes.

 

At the very worst, some might not bother getting back to you, which isn’t that big a deal. But, you’re bound to get a couple of positive replies, especially if your content is exquisitely valuable.

 

Now, this is where it usually gets complicated for most people.

 

Typical run-of-the-mill content doesn’t cut it. Because you’re not just seeking SEO links. You need the audience to respect you as a thought-leader, and subsequently recognize your brand.

 

This is only achievable through valuable, engaging guest content.

 

So, surprise the audience with something they never expected. A deep composition that’s very helpful that it compels them to excitedly share it with their friends.

 

And guess what? 94% of individuals who share content actually do so to help others.

 

Valuable content, therefore, potentially expands its audience reach quite substantially with each new viewer.

 

That’s how BufferApp was able to raise awareness and acquire about 100,000 users in just 9 months.

 

Let’s just say that Leo Widrich, its co-founder is one remarkably persistent guy. Within that time, he had written and distributed 150 solid blog posts.

 

Admittedly, this entire process wasn’t easy at all, not by a long shot. The initial pieces were particularly poor since they drove very little traffic.

 

But things gradually improved as he widened his channels and optimized traffic analytics.

 

Ultimately, 100,000 new users were quite a rewarding catch, to say the least. And that formed their baseline users, from where they were able to escalate their brand marketing to boost the users tenfold.

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Source: Buffer

Conclusion

You thought selling should be your principal focus? Well, get this. 70% of brand managers say that rallying an audience around your brand is far more important than converting sales.

 

The whole point of a branding strategy is establishing trust. Then using that as a stepping stone to build a following. And that’s when you’ll be able to seamlessly convert them into sales.

 

Of course, you could spend some bucks on it to market your brand. But one thing’s for sure. You could as well achieve extensive brand awareness without spending a dime.

 

If anything, 59% of consumers don’t trust sponsored campaigns.

 

Consider using compelling brand stories to build a substantial online following. You just have to find a way to connect with your target audience. Through stories that actually matter to them.

 

And you have to do regular engagement stories spreading across multiple moments. 47% of consumers usually view about 3-5 content pieces before proceeding to buy.

 

Instead of fighting social media user–optimized engagement algorithms, find ways to leverage it to boost your brand.

 

Then search widely and reach out to your friends in high places. But focus only on selected influential websites that are relevant to your business field. That’s how you generate organic interest in your brand.

 

Finally, take your time to scour the web for the most outstanding platforms that are relevant to your field. Then reach out to their editors with your guest content proposal, and see how it goes.

Action Steps To Remember:

  1. Go through the article
  2. Implement each tactic to your business as you see fit
  3. Measure the results on a weekly basis
  4. Adjust your strategy accordingly

Do you know of any tips we missed? Let everyone know in the comments below!

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