However, many brand managers struggle to get awareness off the ground when it comes to brand and then blame it on a lack of budget. To be fair, budget is often the elephant in the room — even more so when that budget is needed for something as ambiguous as brand awareness.
Still, what many marketing managers don’t know is that a big budget isn’t strictly necessary to increase brand awareness. There are plenty of free methods you can use to improve your brand awareness.
So, in an effort to provide you with some helpful tips, we’ve spoken to a few marketing experts to learn how brand awareness can be improved with little to no budget.
Here’s what they said.
5 Free Methods to Increase Brand Awareness
Did you know that 61% of marketers say improving SEO and growing their organic presence is their top inbound marketing priority? In our opinion, this number should be even higher. Though it requires a good bit of time and effort, SEO is a (mostly) free way to increase your brand awareness.
Jennifer Willy, an 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 can lose some of its power — because all of those companies are also trying to get new clients.”
There are many tactics that make up a “good SEO strategy”, such as excellent keyword research, extensive link building, and the creation of high-quality content.
While good SEO won’t guarantee crazy-high brand awareness, it is one of the foundational steps to making your brand stand out amongst the competition. After all, brands that hold high SERP rankings generally perform better than those that don’t.
Let’s look at a few ways you can optimize your own SEO strategy before we move on to using social media to your advantage.
1. Utilize Link Building
Link building, an integral part of any good SEO strategy, is a task that very few enjoy — but it plays a large and important role in attracting new traffic to your website.
And what do new users on your site mean? Potential customers are learning about your brand. Over time, that can lead to a positive bump in brand awareness.
Aim high when acquiring backlinks from reputable websites. A page in the number-one spot on Google has, on average, 35,000 links to it from external sites. That’s 35,000 possible ways for web users to get to your site — and that’s not even counting those who arrive on your site via the Google search page.
If just one user lands on your site from each of these links, then that’s 35,000 new consumers you’ve managed to reach. Imagine the increase in profits if they all purchased from your brand?
Pro tip: 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 or via “Black Hat SEO” tactics. However, these methods can result in large penalties from Google that are very difficult to recover from.
2. Optimize Your Keywords
Keyword and content optimization is another free SEO tactic that can help increase brand awareness. If you know which keywords are bringing in the most traffic and conversions, it makes sense that you’d want to optimize your website for said keywords.
The process of keyword research and optimization helps you to create brilliant top-of-funnel content — making your site easier to find via organic search.
Pro Tip: Many brand managers find that optimizing long-tail keywords is a better approach when it comes to brand awareness. As they generally have a 3-5% higher CTR compared to shorter keywords, long-tail keywords also generally have less competition in the SERPs.
Plus, they allow you to target user intent much easier. Someone who searches “brand tracking software with audience segmentation” is much further in their decision-making process than someone who searches for “brand awareness”.
So, the people that long-tail keywords reel in will be even more interested in what your brand has to offer.
3. Utilize Social Media
SEO isn’t the only method that Willy of Etia.com recommends — 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 sharing 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.”
Because each social media platform allows for different specialized interactions with consumers, it’s important to decide which ones will be worth your time and effort. Building a strong following on social media is no easy feat — it requires a great deal of effort. But, once you know which channels will benefit your business the most, go for it!
There are 3.5 billion people using social media daily — that’s around 45% of the population. If you’re successful in using social media to promote your brand, you’ll be able to reach thousands if not millions of users. How’s that for a brand awareness goal?
However, social users aren’t always easy to reach — especially not when platforms, such as Facebook, keep tweaking and reimagining their algorithms. And, as organic reach becomes more difficult to achieve, many brand managers feel they need to begin paying to successfully target social media users.
Still, organic reach isn’t totally out of your grasp for social media. As long as you’re creating engaging content that your followers want to interact with, you can still reach a good amount of users.
Pro Tip: Low-quality posts just aren’t worth it, as platforms like Facebook will penalize you by burying them deep in a user’s timeline. If you aren’t going to invest time and effort into creating high-quality content, it’s better to not do it at all.
4. Diversify Your Social Media Portfolio
Diversifying across several different social media platforms is vital to your brand success. And the most important part? You need to create a different, unique strategy for each platform.
Jemimah Ashleigh, a top expert on PR & Mass Exposure, explains 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.”
This approach just makes sense — you can’t approach Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter with the same strategy.
First, each platform has its own unique way of interacting. Instagram is very image and video-focused, whereas Twitter is very text-focused. Secondly, the audiences on each platform differ — from age groups to geographic differences.
You need to choose the social media platforms that will help you reach your target audience and put real effort into growing your followers, interactions, and influence.
5. Look for Free Media Interviews
Nicole Ashby, a business leader and owner of High Profit Media, thinks there’s little point in spending big dollars on brand awareness. Through her work, 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 a comment or a quote, you might be wondering where all these free interviews are. But fear not, they aren’t that hard to find — you just need to do a little digging.
One of the best places to start is by using sites like HARO or Source Bottle, which help reporters and writers find reputable sources for their articles.
For example, say a journalist needs to speak to a pet specialist to get a quote for their latest article on how to safely travel with dogs. All they have to do is set up 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, they can then reach out to share their expert knowledge.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of journalists regularly posting pitches every day on these kinds of sites. They cover every industry — so no matter your niche — 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 both brand awareness and link building!
Pro Tip: 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 result in some good press.
If you don’t yet have the money to make a noteworthy donation, you could encourage your employees to volunteer or offer to be the keynote speaker at one of their charity events or fundraisers.
The bottom line? You don’t always need to have a huge budget to get your brand name out there.
If I Have to Pay to Increase Brand Awareness, How Much?
Well, the amount you have to pay will depend on a range of factors — from the country you operate in to the market you’re targeting.
Let’s take a look at a few important factors.
1. Country of Operation
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 see an actual increase, it 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 was reported that US companies spend, on average, just under $40,000. This is huge compared to other major countries, including China at almost $25,000and the UK, whose spending won’t even break the $6,000 mark.
Therefore, if you want your brand awareness to grow within the American market, you’re going to have to allocate a larger percentage of your budget to social media.
2. Target Markets
Velkou also points out that a brand’s target market could have an influence on 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 more 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, Velkou 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 creativity, 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.”
As you can see, the approach you take will depend heavily on your location and your market position. Unfortunately, some places and markets require more spending to increase brand awareness, as they are very oversaturated.
3. Available Budget
If you can’t avoid spending money, make sure you really think things through before committing — that way what you do spend doesn’t go to waste. Tarun Gurang, Senior Digital Marketer at iFour Technolab Pvt. Ltd, explains which 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. So, either go with a big budget or go with a cheaper budget. The reason? 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 they’ll need a huge budget for brand awareness, whereas if someone is running a local service, then they’ll need a smaller budget for brand awareness.
“So, the budget is dependent 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, you should be able to decide on a reasonable budget for increasing brand awareness.”
Right from the get-go, you need to know which route you’ll take — an affordable route or one where you use as much money as possible to increase brand awareness. Once you have this figured out, you should be able to put together a successful strategy that will work with your chosen budget.
To help figure out which approach is right for you, consider how big you want your brand story to be. For example, a large brand with a sizable level of current awareness might choose to siphon money into a global video strategy to place their ads on TVs around the world.
To give you an idea of how much a huge international campaign can cost, let’s take a look at Nike. This sporting giant’s “Just Do It” campaign is known to a vast number of people on every continent. But how much did that set them back? $3.75 billion in 2019.
This kind of budget is going to be out of reach for smaller, newer brands. Therefore, focusing on free methods like SEO and social media will be the optimum way to go.
To provide a clear example, Ben from Dunk breaks down the spending of his brand:
“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 as 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.
The Bottom Line: Make the Most of Your Available Budget
However, for mid-sized brands that are looking to grow, Lachlan — a Digital Marketing Specialist at Vine Street Digital — explains that using as large a budget as possible is always the optimal method. But, you still need to consider a couple of other factors to ensure that you’re able to 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."
And there you have it — if you have the money to throw at brand awareness, make sure you’re doing it in a smart, well-thought-out manner.
For many smaller or newer brands, you won’t have to expand your budget too much to increase brand awareness. And if you need to tackle brand awareness with as little spend as possible, consider utilizing free media interviews, SEO, and social media.
However, you might eventually hit a wall using free tactics, and some amount of spend will be required to continue your growth trajectory.
If you do have access to a more substantial budget, be sure to use it wisely. Carefully consider the factors that will influence your spend, such as geography and target market. Finally, make sure to track exactly where your budget is going — this way you know what works best for your ROI.
Remember, every single dollar needs to be put to work — no matter how many of them you have.
Updated by: Cory Schröder on 06.08.21