Countless entrepreneurs have said this to me: "We need to raise awareness about our business."
Implicit in this common statement is the following: "If more people knew about us, we would be more successful."
It's a good way to think, but it's often a thought that is jumped to without much deep thinking. I usually find this out after asking a few probing questions about why a business is seeking to raise awareness.
Questions to Ask Regarding Raising Awareness of a Business
If you think increased awareness about your business will help your business to be successful and catapult you into the ranks of successful entrepreneurs, here are a few good questions to ask:
- How aware are people about our business? - If you don't know where you stand now with respect to product awareness or company awareness, how are you going to measure whether a new campaign to raise awareness is successful? It's best to start with some benchmarketing regarding the market's knowledge of who you are and what you do.
- Are the people who are already aware of our business interested in buying our products or services? - Before you pursue greater awareness about your offerings, make sure that the investment in expanded awareness will pay off. A lack of awareness about your goods and services may not be your biggest problem.
- How did the people who already know about us find out about us? - What's worked well in the past can often work well in the future. How did your existing customer base hear about you? How can you replicate that awareness building technique to attract new customers?
- What haven't we tried yet as far as building awareness goes? - Make an exhaustive list of awareness building tactics that you haven't yet tried. For each tactic, write out the pros and cons of the tactic, as well as the estimated costs. As a last step, rank the tactics in terms of which seems like it might provide the best chance of success and the biggest bang for your buck.
- If we actually get an audience with somebody who isn't aware of our offerings, what are we going to say to them? - Asking this question often reveals that a company doesn't have its core messaging and positioning down pat. If you haven't defined your branding and positioning well, be sure to do so before you start an awareness raising campaign.
- Where does expanding awareness fit into our overall business plan and marketing plan? - This question can be a rude awakening if you don't have a business plan or marketing plan. If that's your situation, then you are jumping to tactics before defining strategy. Before you raise awareness, take a step back and make sure you have a good plan in place.
- How much are we willing to spend on raising awareness? - This gets down to the issue of customer acquisition costs. You can raise awareness with a SuperBowl television ad, but is it worth it? Before you ask "How do we raise awareness of our business?" figure out how much you are willing to spend on acquiring a new potential customer.
- What do we need to do to get ready for expanded awareness about the business? - Let's suppose that you invest in building awareness and it works. Then what? Should you offer a free trial or invite interested parties to a seminar? You have to think things through all the way to the end and make sure you are prepared for success.
- Who exactly are we trying to reach and make more aware about our offerings? - This question often reveals that a business hasn't defined its market segmentation well enough. If you try to reach everybody in the world, it's going to be very expensive and very ineffective. Define your target markets narrowly, and raising awareness will get much easier.
- Which of our competitors is doing a much better job of building awareness than we are? - Imitation is the greatest form of flattery. Look at what competitors and peers are doing to raise awareness? Could you use the same approach? For example, if a competitor invested in public relations and it's paying off, maybe you should also hire a PR agency.
- Could expanding awareness about our business backfire on us? - Be careful what you wish for. Drawing attention to your company can sometimes backfire. For example, you might draw regulatory scrutiny, attract new competitors to the marketplace, or make your employees so visibile that they are recruited away by other companies. You might also exceed your available supplies and your capacity to service customers well, which could result in a negative buzz about the company. Think through possible worst case scenarios, as it's a good idea to ask this question before you start investing in raising awareness.
You get the idea. You don't want awareness for awareness' sake alone. It has to be a means to an end. By asking yourself a dozen or so questions about your desire to raise awareness about your company, you will often find that you get a clearer picture on what you really need and how to get from here to there.