One of the biggest challenges that new entrepreneurs face during the early stages of their startup is how to build a strong brand.
The natural inclination is towards running branding campaigns. Sponsor sports, advertise, and just put the logo all over the place so that people can see it.
But building a brand that is "well known" vs. building a brand that is "trusted" are completely different ball games.
Just because everyone knows your brand doesn't mean they trust the brand (even if you do not have a bad product with bad customer reviews).
Direct response marketing involves running ads and building a nurture sequence for your leads. Once the leads go from cold leads to warm leads, you convert them into paying customers. It might look like there is no branding being done here because there are no branding campaigns.
But branding happens as a result of sales through direct response marketing. It is a side effect of the marketing budget that is spent - not directly, but indirectly.
If you generate leads, do not nurture your leads well, over promise, and under deliver for a bad product, then there is going to be negative branding happening as a result of your poorly structured funnel and product. In such a case, brand campaigns driving brand awareness will multiply the problem at hand.
However, when direct response marketing is done at scale, for a long enough period of time, you will be able to build a strong brand.
This brand is not just known (among your leads), but also a trusted brand because your leads and customers had a good experience with you.
Here's a big difference:
- Most people try to do branding campaigns and expect leads and sales as a side effect of branding.
- Instead, generate leads and sales and expect the branding to be a side effect of happy customers generated through the funnel.
You are building trust with a smaller audience than building awareness for a large audience. (And believe me, if you build the trust, the awareness will come, in a much bigger way, people your customers are going to talk about it.)
All the marketing campaigns I have done to date in the past 5 years of my entrepreneurship have been focused only on lead generation. We nurture the leads through a drip marketing funnel and then we convert the leads into sales with tried and tested sales processes.
At best, we have boosted a few Facebook posts for more reach and that's the max we have done to "spread our brand awareness".
Awareness of a brand is less valuable nowadays because people do not decide to buy from a brand just because they know the brand. There is too much clutter out there in the marketplace.
You cannot cut through the clutter by adding more to the clutter yourself. That's what most brands try to do nowadays. Scream harder, louder, to more people and just hope that they remember the brand well enough to come back to you as a customer.
Instead, just focus all your marketing efforts on lead generation and converting the leads into sales (Direct Response Marketing). Every ad that you run needs to solicit a response. A "lead" is called a lead because it "leads to a sale".
Once the sale is done, even if it is a low-ticket item, the product experience will leave a good impression on the users. Users will engage with the product and if the product is good enough, they will talk about it to others, and there is no stronger way to build a brand than to get your users talking about it to their friends.
We once had a student who told us that she joined our cohort-based program because someone told her about it - during a trek in the mountains. There is no way you can advertise in the mountains where there is no network coverage. But you can get your customers to talk about it. And that's good branding. Branding that leads to sales.
Focus on sales, the brand will be built as a side effect. Sales are the best way to build a brand.