When it comes to B2B marketing, closed deals pay the bills. What happens at the bottom of the funnel is what really moves the needle.
But if you want a healthy number of qualified leads and opportunities at the bottom of the funnel, you must start at the top.
The 2020 B2B Marketing Research Report from Marketing Mag shows that “growing and measuring brand awareness and brand health” is the top challenge B2B marketers faced last year.
It’s tough, but it can be done. And this post will walk you through how.
Not long ago, we helped a B2B company grow their social media following to over 500,000.
We helped another B2B brand improve top of funnel site traffic by 950% over just a few months.
We’ve learned a thing or two after running numerous successful brand awareness campaigns for clients.
In this guide, we’ll cover:
- Why brand awareness matters for B2B
- 3 unique challenges B2B marketers face in building brands
- The 3 most effective digital marketing channels for brand awareness
- How to approach each channel (where many B2B marketers get it wrong)
Why is Brand Awareness Important for B2B?
Brand awareness is important because the first step a company takes to working with you is becoming aware of your brand. You can’t convert, qualify, or close a contact that doesn’t know you exist.
That said, B2B marketing is complex. The buyer’s journey isn’t all that linear.
Unlike B2C marketing, companies rarely buy products or services on a whim. You may wake up one day and say, “I think I’ll buy an Apple watch today.” But no CFO or Director or Purchasing wakes up and says, “I think I’ll purchase a whole line of new servers for my company.”
The B2B buyer’s journey almost always starts with the identification of a business problem.
The next step in the journey is research. Once the company feels like they have a good understanding of the solution and what will be required to fix the problem, they begin looking for companies to help them.
So as a B2B marketer, you must ask, “How can we insert ourselves into this process, and make sure we make the final list?”
There are three ways:
- You ensure your brand is visible during their research stage
- You ensure someone at the company is already familiar with your brand before research even begins
- You build demand to make your audience aware of a problem them didn’t know they had
All three of these can be achieved through building a brand awareness strategy among your target audience.
Unique Challenges of B2B Brand Awareness Strategy
That’s easier said than done though, right? Building awareness for a B2B brand is difficult for a few reasons:
1. Brand perception is tough to measure
All good marketing tactics and strategies should be measurable. But how do you measure how many people at relevant companies are aware of your brand?
Social media followings, website traffic, and email lists are a great place to start – but they aren’t exhaustive and you don’t always know how many of these people fit your buyer personas.
On top of that, you don’t know for certain that these people have a positive perception of your brand. Just because they follow you on LinkedIn doesn’t mean they love your company.
2. Brand ROI isn’t immediate and nearly impossible to calculate
Most marketing decisions come down to potential ROI. Some channels provide direct and easily calculated returns. But brand awareness tactics rarely do.
It’s nearly impossible to say, “Okay if we get 100% more followers on LinkedIn, we know that 10% of them will become leads in the next 5 years and then 5% of those will close within 1 year after that, meaning we’ll see a roughly $100,000 return within 6 years.”
It’s even harder to estimate ROI for offline activities.
3. Other marketing activities are more tangible
When making marketing decisions, it can be tempting to put resources and budget toward channels that are more easily measured and attributable.
Targeted advertising, ABM, and email marketing campaigns are all measurable and produce results closer to the sale.
But if you want to fill your funnel with potential leads to retarget, email, and nurture, you’ve got to find them first.
Best Marketing Channels to Build Awareness
Brand awareness and demand can be built through a number of digital marketing channels. You can even take things offline through events, print advertising, speaking engagements, and traditional networking.
But after a decade helping B2B brands grow, we’ve found that the three most effective channels to build brand awareness are content marketing, social media, and SEO.
Thought Leadership Through Content Marketing
Content marketing refers to any type of content – blog posts, white papers, social media posts, downloads, videos, podcasts – that primarily seeks to educate. And this is what makes it so powerful.
While there’s still a place for traditional advertising, content marketing has become one of the best ways to build brand awareness.
B2B buyers are tired of having ads and direct mailers shoved in their face.
70% of people would rather get information about a company or learn something from an article or blog post rather than from a traditional advertisement.
They would much prefer to learn about a brand while having their questions answered and problems solved.
Picture this: your business is having IT inefficiencies. You’re spending too much and things aren’t firing on all cylinders. You don’t know what to do.
You open Google and start doing some research around your problems. The same site keeps coming up with stellar blog posts that speak your language and answer your questions. You bookmark a few of their posts and revisit them.
A few weeks pass and you chat with your superior about a budget to fix this problem. He approves your pitch.
What do you do next? Reach out to the company who has been answering your questions, right? They’re clearly an expert and likely have what it takes to help you solve your problem. Sure you are familiar with a few other IT companies, but this one has earned your trust.
This is why content marketing is so effective.
Marketers have caught on to its effectiveness, too. A few years ago, B2B content marketers said brand awareness was their biggest goal for their content marketing efforts.
It’s clear content marketing works to build brand awareness. But if you’re not already investing in it, how can you get started?
How to Use Content Marketing to Build Brand Awareness?
- Define your buyer personas. You need to make sure you know exactly who you’re talking to, their challenges, their aspirations, their role, and more.
- Create a detailed strategy. Sure, starting to blog regularly is a great first step. But having a well planned strategy is a much better route.
- Create content for every stage of the buyer’s journey. The biggest problem many businesses make is relying too heavily on informational, top of funnel content. This might drive traffic, but creating content for the middle and end of the journey is crucial.
Growing Awareness Through Social Media
Social media platforms offer a gold mine for building brand awareness. One reason why is that it’s a great place to distribute your expert content.
Did you know 75% of B2B buyers and 84% of C-Suite executives use social media when considering a purchase?
It’s not just for big B2C brands.
That said, B2B marketers face a unique challenge when it comes to social media marketing that B2C brands don’t: B2B companies tend to operate in niche industries. This means your content isn’t relevant to the majority of the world, and it’s often not the easiest subject matter to build excitement around.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t craft an effective social media marketing strategy. Here are some pointers:
Introduce Yourself in a Compelling Way
There’s a big difference between someone knowing your brand and knowing about your brand. Knowledge of your brand is good, but an understanding of who you are, what you do, and problems you solve is invaluable.
Because of this, introducing yourself to your audience is a big piece of building brand awareness.
Make sure your social media content communicates:
- What you do
- Who you serve (primarily)
- What problems you solve
- What sets you apart from similar companies
SUSE Asia (an open sourced enterprise software) does a great job of this with quick, compelling, and well designed explainer videos.
Educate Your Audience
Once your audience knows who you are and what you do, a great strategy is to begin educating them on your area of expertise.
Like content marketing, social media can be a great way to establish yourself as an expert and build credibility with your audience.
The key here is to add value. B2B buyers are already familiar with the basics of their industry. Posting surface level content about what they do might hurt your brand more than help it.
Seek to publish educational content that’s:
- Original. Regurgitated content your audience has already seen isn’t going to help you establish yourself as an expert or thought leader.
- Timely. Speak to relevant trends and issues that your audience is seeking clarity on.
- Aligned with business objectives. Any education is great, but when possible, try to align your educational content with products and services you’re looking to push.
Drift does a great job of educating with relevant, original, and valuable content.
Capturing Top-of-Funnel Traffic Through SEO
While social media is a great place to put your content into the hands of your audience, SEO offers an opportunity to introduce your content to new people.
Research is such a big phase of the B2B buyer’s journey. 71% of B2B researchers begin their research with Google searches.
This makes SEO the perfect place to get expert content in front of buyers beginning their research process. If your content helps them take a step in their research process – you’ll likely find yourself on their shortlist for solutions.
Here are some pointers for SEO that drives brand awareness:
- Make your buyer persona your first priority. Over optimizing content for search engines is an okay way to improve rankings, but a poor product to deliver to your readers. Write first for humans.
- Follow on-page optimization best practices. Once you’ve written great content, then it’s time to optimize.
- Cover semantically related topics. If you write a post on accounting tips, make sure you also consider covering budgets, forecasting, taxes, and audits. This can improve rankings and fully satisfy your reader’s query.
- Don’t fear low volume keywords. If you work in a niche industry, it’s unlikely there will be a ton of search volume around your subject matter. That’s okay. It’s likely your potential buyers have complex problems and questions. Rank for these questions – even if they don’t have thousands of monthly searches.
Gong.io does a fantastic job of ranking well and driving organic traffic (nearly 20k per month), without sacrificing on their content.
It’s original, valuable, and written in a compelling way – rather than having keywords stuffed into every headline.
Learn more about how to master B2B SEO.
Don’t Neglect B2B Brand Awareness Campaigns
Closing deals keeps the company lights on, but you need a steady stream of qualified buyers if you’re going to close at a high rate. Brand awareness is the key.
To build brand awareness as a B2B brand, make sure you focus on:
- Valuable content that resonates with your target buyer personas
- A social media strategy that educates and builds trust
- A sound SEO strategy that increases your reach through search engines
Put yourself at the top of your audience’s mind and win their business when the time comes.