7 strategies for small and medium-sized enterprises to increase their brand awareness

Brand awareness is the reputation that your brand has among the public. For small and medium-sized enterprises, it is often not easy to build a popular brand image. Our seven strategies make it possible.

There is also a variety of strategies that small and medium-sized enterprises can use to increase their brand awareness.
Image: © Halfpoint / Adobe Stock

What is brand awareness?

Brand awareness is a term used in market research for measuring the degree of a brand’s recognition as a percentage. The percentage corresponds to the proportion of people who identified the brand during a survey. The more people who recognize the brand, the higher the brand awareness.

For SMEs, the recognition value of their brand is an important factor because it plays a significant role in purchasing decisions. That not only applies to the B2C segment, but brand awareness is a key performance indicator in B2B marketing as well. After all, recognition is the basic prerequisite for a brand to build the acceptance and trust needed to position itself on the market in the long term.

Aware or unaware? The different levels of brand awareness

Especially in a B2C setting, where purchasing decisions are often made impulsively and on the spur of the moment, and occasionally even subconsciously (particularly in the low-involvement segment), merely distinguishing between whether someone is “aware” or “unaware” of a brand is too vague. Here, it comes down to how quickly the person remembers the brand without being prompted. The “aware” state was therefore broken down into a three-stage model:

  • Top of mind: the person immediately remembers the brand without being aided, meaning that it immediately comes to his or her mind.
  • Unaided recall: the person remembers the brand, but needs a bit of time for recall.
  • Aided recall: the person only remembers the brand name when someone else mentions it.

In the case of quick and impulsive purchasing decisions, brands that are in the top-of-mind stage of brand awareness are usually the only ones that benefit. If a purchasing decision is made at the buyer’s leisure, allowing further information to be obtained about the product, even the “aided recall” stage can provide a decisive advantage over competitors.

Since haptics do not yet come into play during the product selection phase of online retail, brand awareness is a particularly important criterion when it comes to choosing products via this sales channel. Online shopping customers tend to buy products from brands whose name they are familiar with or have at least heard of before. After all, they associate a certain level of quality from a name they know or can identify with the brand image.

Brand awareness only comes from target group exposure: spreading the brand name

So that potential customers representing the frequently invoked target group can develop an awareness of a brand and therefore begin to accept and trust it, they must encounter the brand name in as many places and as frequently as possible. This is where the mere-exposure effect comes in, which explains the following phenomena:

  • A stimulus, whether visual, auditory, or tactile, is perceived more positively when it is repeated.
  • If a jingle is played or a logo or advertising claim is displayed, many people are able to directly visualize the product.
  • A neutral initial encounter with the product or advertising message leads to trust and a positive connotation with the brand name.

There are many different strategies and measures for achieving this goal and their suitability varies depending on the industry, product segment, and target group. As with any marketing measure, you obviously need to identify your own target group and create one or more valid personas.

7 strategies for better brand awareness: a focus on added value, investment, and activeness

The following strategies will help your small or medium-sized enterprise improve its brand awareness. They all complement one another and are not mutually exclusive. We recommend intertwining or simultaneously applying as many of these strategies as possible. However, each one needs to be adapted to your specific industry and target group. You can implement some aspects by yourself, but others will require specialist expertise.

Brand awareness strategy #1 – SEA

Especially in online retail, a strong strategy with regard to search engine advertising (SEA) can pay off. For players new to the market, paid ad placement in search engines is a really quick way to establish their brand name and brand image within the relevant target group.

Brand awareness strategy #2 – paid social ads

Ads on social media have the same impact as SEA measures and ensure that the brand name is spread in precisely those networks in which the target group is active. Closely tying this in with a social media content or sponsored content strategy will enable you to attract the attention of readers by presenting your brand name together with real-life use cases, success stories, or specific added value.

Brand awareness strategy #3 – SEO

Although investing in sound SEO activities for your website may be a lengthy process, it is also a more sustainable path to brand success. The higher the website ranks when entering search terms relevant to your brand, the more it will contribute to building long-lasting brand awareness.

Brand awareness strategy #4 – social selling

Particularly in a B2B setting, we recommend having a suitable social selling strategy in order to build long-lasting brand awareness on an ongoing basis. Social business networks such as Xing and above all LinkedIn are especially effective tools in this context. By posting good content, being active, frequently interacting with users, networking with thought leaders in your industry, and demonstrating a presence within groups, you can gradually acquire expert status and build an excellent level of awareness for your brand.

Brand awareness strategy #5 – content marketing strategy

Especially in the B2B sector, it is important to not simply bombard your target group with advertising, but rather to provide content with genuine added value for every reader. When choosing the format and channel for this useful content, you have to take into account the target group and what works best for you and your brand. Creating guides, blog posts, social media stories, videos, e-books, whitepapers, photos, infographics, podcasts, as well as social media surveys, contests and competitions – all of this takes time and expertise, but your brand will gain true fans as a result.

Brand awareness strategy #6 – press and public relations

Is there an online magazine or traditional trade journal that is relevant to your industry? Or other modern web platforms and print media that are popular with your target group? If so, you have to showcase your brand there. This approach will let you benefit directly from the credibility of the channel. Place ads there, make yourself available for an interview, or write a guest article. You should also have a dedicated press section with current announcements on your website and send the latest news to important press mailing lists.

Brand awareness strategy #7 – live presence and sponsoring

Don’t just be present, instead, be sure to actively participate in all live events, whether they are speaker sessions, workshops, trade shows, or public festivals. These give you the opportunity to present yourself both within your industry and to your target group. In the B2C segment, good old marketing channels like radio advertising on local or regional stations can also be effective alternatives to making your brand message stick in the minds of a wide audience in the form of a catchy jingle. Sponsoring a club can also boost brand awareness.