Raising Awareness for Your Products or Services

I had a media inquiry recently from a reporter asking how businesses can best reach out to consumers to raise awareness of their products and services. It’s a great question and one that every new business/service provider grapples with. It is also the first step in the consumer buying process once a need has been realized. So, if you’re a business owner with something new to offer what steps should you take to get the word out to raise awareness of your product/service?  Here are my recommendations:

1) Clearly identify a *specific* goal – that helps to provide some direction in terms of the level of effort/resources that might be needed to achieve success and also impacts messaging. There is a difference, for instance, in a goal of generating awareness (generally the first step when initiating a new product/service) and generating prospects or sales. Both are important, but the strategies and tactics each goal drives will vary.

2) Specifically identify target market segments. There is a danger in trying to be “all things to all people” and in not being as specific as possible in identifying target market segments. The more narrow the focus, the better able marketers are to identify specific communication opportunities most likely to reach key segments and the better able they are to create messages that are targeted and compelling. I’d recommend starting with a broad list of potential segments – those groups of individuals who, for whatever reason, are most likely to be interested in what you have to offer. What are their demographic characteristics (e.g. age, sex, income, geography)? What are their psychographic characteristics — what sorts of things do they do or are they interested in that might provide some clues in terms of how to best reach them through communication? Are there websites they might frequent? Publications they might read? Groups they might belong to?

3) Develop key messages – no more than 3 to 5. Based on what you know about the target audience(s) you’re attempting to reach, consider both the possible objections they might have and the compelling benefit points you might make to overcome those objections or appeal to their interests.

4) Identify communication outlets. Again, this is where a solid understanding of the target market is critical. What are the outlets most likely to reach them? I’ve found that Twitter can be a great way to generate awareness for a product or service initially, but it needs to be tied into an overall campaign that ultimately drives traffic back to the web site. If using Twitter, what key words will be most effective in generating the followers you need? What compelling points can you make to leverage the viral impact of retweets? PR opportunities might also come into play — what media outlets might be interested in “your story.” You’re ultimately trying to target their audiences (which should reflect your target audiences), but you need to get through the gatekeepers (the reporters/writers/producers) to get your story out there. What’s newsworthy/valuable about what you have to say?   What other creative opportunities might you have given your goal and target audience?

5) Measure results. Online communication is great in that it allows measurement of response quite readily and because it is “real-time” it’s relatively simple to change strategies, try new things and make adjustments along the way.  Direct marketing also offers the ability to readily track results. And traditional media may be measured by focusing on changing some metrics that you may monitor on a regular basis–e.g. increases in leads/contacts, web site statistics, changes in levels of awareness as measured through consumer research, etc.

While the steps are simple and straightforward, the best results will come through a careful and thorough analysis of the market you’re attempting to reach. The better you understand your target market, the more precisely you will be able to pinpoint communication methods that will reach them at the right place and the right time and the more able you’ll be to develop messages that really resonate with your audience and incite them to some type of action.

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