Brand awareness must be top priority, but doesn’t have to be top of your budget. Experts discuss how much spend is required to increase brand awareness.
However, many marketers struggle to get awareness off the ground when it comes to brand and blame it on a lack of budget. Budget is often the elephant in the room for marketers, even more so when that budget is needed for something like brand awareness, which is not easy to measure (but can be done).
But what many marketing managers don’t know is that a big budget isn’t really needed to increase brand awareness. It’s true! We’ve been speaking to marketing experts to learn how brand awareness can be improved with little to no budget. Here’s what they said.
61% of marketers say improving SEO and growing their organic presence is their top inbound marketing priority. Is SEO part of your marketing strategy? Then you are already working towards improving brand awareness.
Jennifer, Editor at Etia.com explains:
“Researching SEO strategies related to your niche, products or services can help you increase brand awareness. This research will set you apart as an expert and leader in your industry. SEO is very powerful for companies pitching to prospects. If competitors are all citing the same information, though, it loses some of its power because of all those companies trying to get new clients.”
It’s surprising how doing some simple SEO tasks can have an effect on the latter. Here are a couple of key examples.
Link building, an integral part of any SEO campaign, is a task that no one cherishes, but plays a big part in bringing new traffic to your site. That traffic means new people learning about your brand: over time, that’s a positive climb for brand awareness.
Aim high when acquiring backlinks from sites. A page in the number-one spot on Google has on average 35,000 links to it from external sites. That’s a possible 35,000 ways for web users to get to your site, without even counting users who come from the Google search page.
If just one person arrives at your site from each of these links, then that’s 35,000 new people you’ve reached. Imagine your profits if they all purchase your service or product!
Just remember that any links gained should be gained organically. Website owners should want to link to your site because it provides value for their customers. Of course, it is easier and faster to acquire new links by paying for them, but this can result in being penalized by Google.
Keyword and content optimization is another free SEO tactic that helps increase brand awareness. The process creates brilliant top-of-funnel content, making your site easy to find in organic searches.
Many marketers find that optimizing long-tail keywords can go further for them when it comes to brand awareness. They generally have a 3-5% higher CTR compared to shorter keywords. So, that’s even more people brought to your page.
SEO isn’t the only method that Jennifer recommends, as she also has plenty of good things to say about the powers of social media:
“Instagram is a social media platform with power. It’s said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and Instagram lets you promote that story via the image(s) you post and the text you narrate. Facebook helps in speaking directly to the community and share the results of different programs and products. Twitter is another big social media platform for brand awareness because it helps you publish news and interact with customers already talking about your business.”
There are 3.5 billion people using social media daily—that’s around 45% of the population. If you get your brand on social media, then you could potentially reach all of those users. How’s that for a brand awareness goal? All of those social users aren’t always easy to reach, though. Especially not when platforms, such as Facebook, keep on tweaking and rejigging their algorithms. There’s now a distinct cost of targeting social media users as organic reach becomes more difficult to achieve.
Organic reach isn’t totally out of grasp, though. As long as you are creating engaging posts that your followers want to interact with, you can still be placed high in most timelines. Low-quality posts just aren’t worth it these days, as Facebook will penalize you by burying them deep in a user’s timeline.
Diversifying across a number of different social media is important. The brand behind this famous marketing technique also points out that it’s necessary to create a different strategy for each platform.
Jemimah Ashleigh, a Mass Exposure Expert, puts forward that the size of your network is also important when building a profile for a brand:
“Jim Rohn is the GrandFather of personal development and if you were going to listen to someone about this - it is absolutely him! He came up with the idea of you being the sum of the 5 people you spend the most time with. Our network has a direct correlation to the success we will have in the future. Another way of putting it, you can't do epic shit with basic people...
Look for better contacts: the more client exposure you have, the easier doors open. People on average are connected with 700 people. The right people have 700 clients at their fingertips for you.”
Nicole Ashby agrees with Jennifer that there’s little point in spending big dollars on brand awareness. Through her work at High Profit Media, she’s discovered that brands can do a lot with free media interviews:
“Once you know how the media works and what stories they are looking for from small businesses, the world is your oyster and you can be featured in/on print, TV, radio, and podcasts for free! Yes, you can!
"I grew my first business off the back of free publicity and I now teach other business owners how to navigate the world of the mass media to increase their brand awareness, cement themselves as an authority in their industry and become the ‘go-to’!”
If you have yet to be approached by anyone in the media for comment or a quote, you might be wondering where all these free interviews are. They aren’t always that hard to find; you just need to do a little digging.
One of the best places to start is by using a light like HARO or Source Bottle. These sites help reporters and writers find sources for their articles. Say a journalist needs to speak to a pet specialist for a quote to go in their latest article on how to travel with dogs. They just need to put out a pitch on either site detailing the kind of expert and quote they need. If a veterinarian or pet blogger sees their pitch in the regular newsletter, then they can reach out with their expert knowledge.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of journalists regularly posting pitches every day on these sites. They cover every industry, so no matter your specialism, you should be able to offer your wisdom to someone at some point. If your quote is accepted, then the journalist will link back to your site in their article— so it’s a boost for awareness and link building!
Engaging your philanthropic side can also help you gain some free media coverage. Local newspapers love it when small businesses give back to the community, so getting involved with a nearby charity should gain you some good press. If you don’t yet have the money to make a noteworthy donation, you could encourage your employees to volunteer with the cause or offer to be the keynote speaker at one of their charity events and fundraisers.
Sometimes you have to spend money in order to increase brand awareness. Tash Velkou, a Freelance Marketer, believes that the country you operate in could be a huge factor in brand awareness spend:
“In terms of media spend to get the actual increase this differs based on the market. In markets like the Philippines, media does cost less- but it is always contextual to the market. NZ, for instance, costs less than Australia but this is contextual to the population.”
One huge difference between how geographical markets choose to distribute their marketing budget can be seen in social media spending. In 2020, it’s projected that US companies will pay out just under $40,000. This is huge compared to other major countries, including China and Germany, whose spend won’t even break the $4,000 mark. If you want your awareness to grow within the American market, you’re going to have to push a larger chunk of your budget onto social media.
She also points out that a brand’s target market could have a consequence for branding budgets:
“If your target market is everyone (say you sell milk) and you want to use broad channels that reach everyone, this can be expensive. If you're in a ore niche industry- let's say dentists, it can be less- although you generally spend more per impression to get access to that niche market e.g. if you were to advertise during prime time TV- this would be expensive but low cost per person, whereas advertising in a trade publication for dentists would cost less, but you won't reach as many people as the TV ad would.”
When asked about free methods, Tash is quick to remind marketers of the issues associated with them:
“The challenge with organic social is that you're probably spending a decent amount of resources developing the content and if that content is not seen it's wasted. I would always advise a brand to spend more on media and less on creative, we all know less is more. If you're posting 3 posts a week and not putting media behind them you would be better doing one post per month and spreading your media spend over the month- depending on your message of course. Earned media is great for positioning your brand's quality but it takes a lot of personal brand building and making meaningful connections which can be hard if you're time poor or don't have a comms/media team/agency. At Chobani I was able to develop strong relationships with a few dieticians who ended up naming us the best yogurt on national TV- but this took a lot of time and relationship building.”
If you can’t avoid spending money, make sure you really think things through so what you do spend isn’t a waste. Tarun Gurang, Senior Digital Marketer at iFour Technolab Pvt. Ltd, explains how a few factors should influence your decision:
“In my opinion, there is no limit to increasing brand awareness. But still, it depends on the decided or allocated budget for a business owner or salesperson who is responsible for the financial expenses of the business.
Is it something that can be done cheaply or will you need a big budget? Both perspectives can be happening but at one time either go with a big budget or go with a cheaper budget. The reason is that all businesses are not the same thus the expense of the budget will also be different for every industry or business. If someone is running a huge eCommerce business, then it needs a huge budget for brand awareness while someone is running a local service then it needs a small amount of budget for brand awareness.
So, the budget is depending on many factors such as type of the business, targeted audience, targeted region, the scope of the product or service, etc. and based on these and other factors anyone can decide the budget for brand awareness.”
Right from the start, you will need to know whether you are going to take the affordability route or try to attack brand awareness with as much money as possible. This should then make it easier to put a successful strategy in place that will work well with your budget.
To help with this, consider how big you want to take your brand story. A large brand that already has a sizable level of awareness, might want to pump money into a global video strategy that puts your adverts on TV around the world.
To give you an idea of how much a huge international campaign could cost, let’s take a look at Nike. The sporting giant’s “Just Do It” campaign is known to a vast number of people on every continent. How much did that set them back? $3.75 billion in 2019.
That’s going to be out of reach for smaller, newer brands who don’t have that much coin available to them. In this case, focusing on SEO and social media would be the optimum way to go.
Ben from Dunk breaks down the spending of his brand to give a clear example:
“For a spend of $200 over one week for a promoted post, we average a reach of 50,000 people. We set our target audience to 'Automatic' which means Instagram serves our promotion to people similar to our follower base. From this spend of $200, we average 50 leads, of which 5-10 will convert to a sale. This means from every $1 of marketing we expend on Instagram, we see a 5x-10x return. We've previously used Facebook and Google are secondary advertising tools, but the value of each of these far underwhelms the returns we've seen from Instagram over the last 2+ years.”
So, figuring out the social platform which is best suited to your own brand can help you squeeze out even more ROI.
If you can afford to spend more than $200 a week, then even better. Lachlan, a Digital Marketing Specialist at Vine Street Digital explains that using as big a budget as possible is always the optimal method. But you still need to consider a couple of other factors to ensure that you optimize your reach:
“The first thing is impression share. If you’re already achieving 100% impression share in your account and you’re not limited by budget, then you’ve already hit your limit. To get around this, you’ll need to expand your keyword pool or look to add more budget to other platforms.
The second thing is diversifying your advertising platforms. Brand awareness is beneficial if users are able to see your ad as often as possible. To achieve this, you’ll need to look at using other platforms like Facebook/Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google Display and many more. The more places your ads are showing up, the better brand awareness you’ll have."
On the face of it, it may seem like you don’t have to expand your budget too much to increase brand awareness. Want to do it on the cheap? Then free media interviews, SEO, and social media are the way to go.
However, you might hit a break wall eventually using free tactics, and some amount of spend might be required to continue to grow.
If you do have access to a substantial budget, be sure to use it wisely. Consider the factors that will influence your spending carefully, such as geography and target market, and also track exactly what is going where.
Every single dollar needs to be put to work, no matter how many of them you have.