Brand Awareness vs Lead Generation: Which One Should You Prioritize?

Writer:
Paul Dughi
Editor:
Kassidy Vavra
Published: Feb 15, 2024
Last Updated:
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Brand awareness vs lead generation? It’s an age-old question for marketers. While the two marketing strategies have distinct goals, they are ultimately intertwined. 

Successful marketing builds trust with potential customers and motivates them to act. The more familiar a prospect is with your company, and the more favorably they view you, the more likely they are to engage. Brand awareness makes that happen. However, just because someone knows your company or your products doesn’t mean they will become customers. You also need a strong lead generation strategy to drive customers through the sales funnel.

Long-term success requires an aligned focus on both brand awareness and lead generation. Together, these two marketing strategies drive leads into your pipeline. 

So, should you prioritize brand awareness vs lead generation? The answer depends in part on your company’s current market stage, target segments, competition, and objectives. Understanding the unique value branding and lead gen tactics contribute at different points in the buyer’s journey allows you to optimize your approach.

To determine which is best for your brand, let’s first define brand awareness and how to maximize its role in your marketing strategy. Then, we’ll discuss lead generation and how to boost your efforts. Finally, we’ll discuss how to bring it all together for optimal results.

What Is Brand Awareness?

Brand awareness reflects how well potential customers are with your brand’s identity, products, and services. A high level of brand awareness creates a significant competitive edge. When people search for solutions, a brand with high awareness is more likely to stand out and get clicks. Even if people ultimately don’t buy, well-known companies generally get the first look — although they also may not be the best choice.

Brand awareness is foundational for:

  • Brand Recognition: Identification of brands based on visual clues or slogans
  • Brand Recall: Top-of-mind awareness in your category without prompting
  • Brand Perception: How customers feel about your brand

The Role of Brand Awareness in Your Marketing Strategy

Branding creates awareness and implants positive messaging in the minds of prospective customers. The best brands evoke both instant recognition and an emotional connection. A Salesforce study shows that 62% of consumers felt strong emotional connections to their favorite brands. That connection pays off in multiple ways.

Brand promotion creates the awareness necessary to:

  • Increase market share with familiarity and visibility to drive consideration and choice over competitors
  • Lower customer acquisition costs since aware customers are more likely to purchase directly rather than needing extensive education
  • Command higher pricing power and margins thanks to established brand equity and competitive differentiation
  • Create opportunities for brand extension and expanded product lines under an umbrella perception
  • Attract investor funding and more favorable commercial partnerships

When To Run Brand Awareness Campaigns

Consistent brand-building strategies should always be part of your marketing mix. It’s why a significant portion of the marketing budget targets building and maintaining brand awareness. Look at this list of companies that spend millions of dollars to promote their brand across retail and finance or electronics and telecommunications categories:

  • Retail: Amazon, Target, Walmart, Home Depot, Lowes
  • Finance: State Farm, American Express, Chase
  • Electronics: Apple, Samsung, Sony, Dell, Microsoft
  • Telecommunication: T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T

Even though every one of these companies has already achieved significant brand awareness, they continue to invest in branding. The bottom line is that building and maintaining a customer base requires some level of brand-building at all times. Marketers use brand awareness as a baseline to help enhance lead conversion strategies.

However, there are also key moments in a company’s growth that require a heavier focus on brand building.

Launching a New Brand

Introducing something completely new requires proactive education so target customers understand what you offer and why it matters. When launching a brand, dedicated awareness building lays the foundation for recognition and understanding.

Entering a New Geographic or Demographic Market

Expanding into previously untapped segments means starting brand associations from scratch through awareness building within regions or buyer groups. Dedicated campaigns make audiences embrace your brand as it enters their backyard or caters to their specific needs for the first time.

Facing Increasing Competition

If competitor brands gain more voice or market share within your space, refocusing awareness campaigns showcases your differentiators and reminds customers why your brand uniquely solves their needs and communicates their identity or values.

Overcoming Commoditization

When customers view your offerings as a commodity rather than a differentiated brand, strategic awareness efforts can re-establish your unique positioning and identity. Showcase your values, personality, and emotional connections to enhance brand awareness.

9 Tips for Maximizing Your Brand Awareness Efforts

Building brand awareness is part science and art. You need a creative messaging approach to capture a prospect’s attention and a regimented approach to guide your efforts. Here are nine tips to help you focus your brand awareness campaign strategy.

1. Set Clear and Achievable Goals From the Start

It’s easy to say we need better branding, but executing that strategy is complex. It starts with setting clear and achievable goals. Concrete goals help create accountability.

You want to target specific outcomes in tangible terms. Rather than seeking awareness in general, you want to establish quantifiable metrics that match your goals. For example, you may want to target a specific number of impressions or touchpoints, social interactions or clickthroughs, or positive changes in brand recognition or brand sentiment.

You will want measurable benchmarks for each of your KPIs so you can compare the results of your strategy and determine which approach generates the best results. Set specific and measurable goals to ensure you’re heading in the right direction.

2. Identify and Understand Your Target Audience

Your brand positioning will vary greatly depending on your target audience. Your success depends on your ability to solve prospective customers' problems and help them achieve their goals. To do so, you need a deep understanding of:

  • Who they are
  • Their pain points
  • What they aspire

Your brand presence needs to speak to them in terms they can understand.

Build buyer personas that represent your ideal customer. Market research, competitor analysis, and current competitors can help you create a profile to target high-value buyers. You’ll get your best results when you craft brand awareness strategies that align with these personas. 

3. Master Branding To Differentiate From Competitors

Personalizing your content to these buyer personas can help you stand out. Just 65% of consumers report that the content they see from brands feels “relatable.” That’s a big opportunity to differentiate yourself from the competition.

When potential customers can immediately distinguish the difference between you and your competitors, that signifies strong brand recognition. If every company or product in your sector looks and feels the same, products can easily become viewed as commodities. If you can’t establish a uniqueness about what you do and who you are, potential customers may simply default to industry leaders or more well-known brands.

You need to carve out your own niche and incorporate it into your branding message.

To master branding, you need to create your brand story and recognizable brand assets, such as logos, visuals, color schemes, and visual and verbal identity. This consistency helps establish your brand beyond just your name. Nike’s swoosh, McDonald’s golden arches, and Apple’s apple are so well known they don’t even need the company name to evoke recognition.

4. Run Your Campaigns on the Platform Your Audience Uses Most

As part of developing your buyer persona, you should also investigate where and how prospects consume information. Selecting the right distribution channels is key to generating awareness. For example, you may have great information on your website. However, if prospects never visit your website, they’ll never see it.

Market research can help you understand where to create awareness campaigns and whether search campaigns, industry blogs and websites, social media, or traditional advertising will be best for your brand. You may have to experiment and track data to find what medium or tactics work best and move the needle against your key metrics.

5. Collaborate With Other Brands in Your Niche

Another effective strategy to gain brand exposure is to find compatible brands in your niche. Strategic collaboration can tap into the audience and influence of complementary brands. For example, you may want to create co-branding campaigns that blend the strengths of each partner or shared events that draw loyal fans from each brand.

  • Starbucks and Spotify launched a joint effort to co-brand a music ecosystem, offering artists greater access to Starbucks customers while providing the coffee chain with greater access to Spotify’s musical selections.
  • Amazon and American Express co-branded a business credit card to encourage spending and cultivate dual awareness.
  • Nike’s Run Club is a natural fit for Apple Watch users and seamlessly blends the two brands for consumers. 
  • One of the biggest co-branding examples in history was when Taco Bell partnered with Doritos to create Doritos Locos tacos, which has now become one of the fast-food chain’s highest-selling items. Taco Bell sold 100 million of them in just the first 70 days after the launch, generating a 13% sales lift.

6. Respond to Comments and Engage Your Audience

One bad review or unresolved comment can undermine even the best marketing campaigns. Imagine you’ve built your brand with the reputation of exceptional customer service, and then a video goes viral that shows how your customer couldn’t get through to your support line.

It’s crucial to engage your audience with active listening to address problems or concerns before they escalate and understand what people say and feel about your brand in real-time. Monitor and respond to discussions to shape your brand awareness strategy, help with ideation for content, and develop loyal fans.

Active listening shows your customers you pay attention to them and are available when they need you. On social media, for example, 94% of business leaders say that creating brand connections with an audience on a personal level creates authentic and lasting impressions.

7. Create Shareable and Relatable Content

At the heart of your brand awareness strategy is engaging content that builds and reinforces your brand messaging and positions you as an expert in your category. Blogs and guest blog posts, eBooks, email, and social content can all drive your brand messaging.

However, you can’t simply regurgitate content that’s already out there. There’s a considerable amount of poorly crafted content that just rehashes the same topics. That won't make you stand out or establish you as an authority. 

The best content will educate, enlighten, and entertain your prospects. The right content can hit home and help establish your brand. This may include:

  • Discussions about common problems and solutions
  • How-to guides
  • Inspirational customer success stories
  • Thought leadership

90% of organizations use content marketing in their efforts. Blog posts play a large role in many companies' content strategies, as they:

  • Drive awareness
  • Showcase expertise
  • Increase organic search visibility
  • Generate leads

8. Improve Customer Experience

Your marketing efforts also need to create a better customer experience. In fact, customers' overall perception of your brand partially determines your brand equity. Positive or negative experiences impact your brand value.

Three-quarters of consumers say customer experience is the number one factor when choosing between competing brands, topping both product and price concerns.

9. Analyze Results to Improve Your Efforts

Brand awareness metrics are crucial to continuous improvement. Track everything you do back to your goals to determine ROI. This ongoing analysis helps you constantly refine and improve your marketing strategy.

For example, tracking your customer satisfaction score (CSAT) and net promoter score (NPS) can measure the impact of your brand awareness tactics over time.

What Is Lead Generation?

While brand awareness focuses on recognition and perception, lead generation aims to drive interest and demand. Lead generation is a strategy to capture the interest of your target market and build a relationship. Generating leads drives potential customers into your sales pipeline and enables you to capture contact information and, with intent, signals to begin the marketing and sales nurturing process.

The Importance of Lead Generation for Businesses

Lead generation is crucial to build your business and power growth in several distinct ways:

  • Drives sales pipeline: Quality leads fuel predictable revenue growth as sales staff concentrate efforts on qualified prospects already educated on your capabilities. 
  • Measures campaign success: Lead conversion rates tied to specific campaigns or platforms quantify awareness, engagement, and ROI. Marketers can identify and double down on the most effective channels and messages.
  • Gauges interest: Rapid growth in leads signals genuine interest in your offerings from target segments. Sudden lead gen declines may also indicate emerging issues. 
  • Reduces acquisition costs: “Warm leads” reduce the sales costs versus cold outreach. 

There are two types of lead generation strategies: inbound and outbound.

Inbound leads come from attracting potential customers through valuable content, such as blogs, eBooks, white papers, studies, and webinars. Outbound lead generation targets potential customers through cold calling, paid advertising, and email marketing.

Although there is value in both strategies, inbound leads cost more than 60% less on average than outbound leads and are as much as 10X more effective for lead conversions.

When To Run Lead Generation Campaigns

In concert with your brand awareness, lead generation should be an ongoing component of your marketing strategy. 50% of marketers consider lead generation their top priority in marketing campaigns to attract prospective customers.

When your primary goal is to acquire new customers or generate sales leads, lead generation strategies are key. They work best when you have a defined target audience and seek to capture information to build sales funnels. This is where both outbound and inbound marketing can work together. Both create leads, which allows you to drive prospects through the buyer’s journey.

Building on your brand awareness, lead-generation campaigns are also highly effective at key times in your company’s growth.

New Product or Service Launch

Focusing on lead generation during a launch allows you to lay the foundation for building a customer base for the new product or service. These campaigns can help capture initial interest and provide feedback on your marketing efforts.

Promotional Offers, Discounts, or Limited Time Offers

Incorporating lead-generation campaigns alongside promotional offers or discounts can be a powerful strategy. Enticing potential customers with exclusive deals creates a sense of urgency and encourages them to provide their information in exchange for the benefits offered. This approach not only generates leads but also fosters immediate engagement.

Seasonal Campaigns

For businesses that experience seasonal fluctuations, running lead generation campaigns during peak seasons can capture potential customers when their interest in your products or services is naturally higher. This approach maximizes customer acquisition during periods of increased demand.

8 Tips to Ace Your Lead Generation Activities

Before you begin your lead generation efforts, it’s crucial to get marketing and sales teams on the same page. There’s often a disconnect between the two, which can stifle your growth. Imagine if your marketing team starts a lead gen campaign focusing on a specific product, and your sales team doesn’t have the right collateral to follow up. It happens more often than you might think.

Yet, when there is alignment, magic can happen. Research shows that well-aligned sales and marketing teams produce:

So, what does it take to get lead generation tactics right and achieve these kinds of results? Here are eight strategies to focus your lead gen efforts.

1. Define Your Audience Needs Based on Sales Funnel Stages

The sales funnel has been around for a long time. The first known example was published back in 1898. More than 100 years later, it’s still relevant, although it’s changed quite a bit. It's important to understand the stages of your sales funnel as they relate to your audience and create content that addresses each of them.

The modern sales funnel breaks down into five stages, each with its own goal:

  1. Awareness: Prospects first learn of your offerings through initial touchpoints. 
    Goal: Educate broadly on your brand and category solutions.
  2. Research & Comparison: Interested prospects investigate options, seeking specific details on you vs. competitors. 
    Goal: Provide content showcasing your unique value.
  3. Decision: Prospects determine if/who to buy from based on assessment.
    Goal: Supply trials, demos for evaluation, and unique solutions.
  4. Experience & Loyalty: Post-purchase, prospects reaffirm selection based on experience. 
    Goal: Deliver exceptional onboarding and ongoing value.
  5. Advocacy Stage: Happy customers refer others and give testimonials.
    Goal: Make it easy to share positive word-of-mouth.

As prospects move through the sale funnel, you need the right marketing mix to address their concerns at each stage and drive them down the funnel. Interest and motivation are different at each stage, so it's critical to ensure your content aligns with these.

2. Consider Seasonality To Choose the Best Time for Campaigns

Analyze historical conversion rates by month and quarter to look for patterns that indicate when prospects are most active. For many businesses, lead gen strategies revolve around these patterns. For example, retailers see their biggest spikes around the winter holidays. Lawn care and landscaping services see more activity in the spring. SaaS providers may see higher demand as companies set budgets for the following cycle.

Understanding these patterns empowers you to concentrate your lead generation activity when interest is highest or potential customers seek solutions.

3. Remember To Focus on Quality Over Quantity

The end goal in lead generation is really conversions. Focusing on quality rather than quantity generates leads that are more likely to convert. Quality leads are those most interested in your products or services and align with your high-value customer profiles.

Many companies focus efforts on generating leads in bulk, but this can waste time for marketing and sales teams to follow up with prospects that are not likely to buy. Sifting through long lists of poor leads is time-consuming and can lead to overlooking high-quality leads in your sales pipeline.

4. Leverage Tools To Create Your Lead Database

You need a way to categorize your marketing leads and apply lead generation tools to sift through your leads.

One of the biggest disconnects in organizations often comes when it’s time to move a prospect from a marketing-qualified lead (MQL) to a sales-qualified lead (SQL).

MQLs are someone who has entered the sales pipeline and has the potential to become a customer. These can range from someone who engaged with your website to truly interested buyers. These are worthy of content nurturing to drive prospects through the sale funnel until they deserve your sales team's attention or the real push to convert. High-quality sales leads have three things in common:

  • A demonstrated need for what you’re providing
  • The budget to purchase
  • The authority to purchase

Companies typically employ strategies like lead scoring and lead behavior to determine when leads are ready to transition from MQLs to SQLs.

5. Use Lead Magnets or Offers for Different Buyer Cycle Stages

Lead magnets and offers are designed to capture leads into your pipeline. What you provide and how you do it will vary depending on what stage of the buying cycle prospects are in.

You may target Top of the Funnel (TOFU) prospects with a blog post and a compelling call-to-action or a free e-book or white paper that is gated. Gated content typically requires providing email addresses or contact information in exchange for accessing a resource. 

With a Middle of Funnel (MOFU) prospect, you need to segment your leads into smaller groups to provide more targeted information. Depending on their needs, you may want to focus on case studies showing how you solve problems, success stories, webinars, or product comparisons to help them make more informed decisions.

As prospects enter the Bottom of Funnel (BOFU) stage, your effort turns to conversion. This might include a free demo offer, coupon code, limited-time sale, or coupon code to spur sales.

6. Focus on Message Consistency Across Channels

Just like with brand awareness, message consistency across channels is crucial. Regardless of where prospects encounter your brand, you want a consistent brand message to help reinforce your marketing. 

This is especially important when you capture someone’s attention. When generated leads from a blog post or newsletter cause a prospect to click over to your website, they should encounter consistent content style, tone, look, and feel.

7. Consider Co-Marketing To Create Attractive Deals

Also similar to your brand awareness strategy, you should consider lead gen marketing tactics that co-market with complimentary products or brands. This might include cross-selling other products or coordinated efforts with partners to cross-promote.

When you team up with another company, you can reach a new audience that may not be familiar with your products or services. However, you need to target companies that complement what you do, share similar values, and have a strong reputation for quality.

Co-marketing strategies might include:

  • Content marketing partnerships, such as guest blogs
  • Event sponsorships
  • Joint product partnerships
  • Affiliate marketing or referral agreements

Pooling resources with the right partner can also stretch your marketing dollars to maximize channel revenue.

8. Choose the Channels That Best Suit Each Funnel Stage

Finally, your lead gen strategy needs to target the right channels for each stage of the funnel, tailoring content to how your buyer personas engage at each level.

For TOFU prospects, marketers generally focus on pay-per-click and display advertising, social media campaigns, and content marketing to attract initial engagement — often targeting broad keywords. You’re “pushing” content to prospects who may not be looking at you already.

MOFU prospects, however, have already shown at least some level of interest in your products or services. Content and email marketing, customer reviews, and videos are effective channels to nurture the relationship. Retargeting those visiting your websites or content across social media and digital display is also effective. High-quality content furthers interest and keeps them engaged.

BOFU marketing is the most direct, as it’s when prospects convert to customers. Focusing on intent-driven keywords helps here, as well as targeting prospects with personalized email offers, direct messages, and customized landing pages to help push them to buy.

How Can You Leverage Both to Reach Your Objectives?

Successful marketers leverage both brand awareness and lead gen strategies to accelerate impact. The symbiotic techniques reinforce one another to capture leads and drive prospects through the sales funnel.

Brand awareness and recognition create familiarity and trust. This increases the likelihood that prospects will engage and opt in. Nurturing these leads with relevant and engaging content over time allows you to reinforce your brand message, demonstrate your capabilities, and establish your credibility.

Then, you can promote personalized content and offer to drive conversions.

How Compose.ly Can Help You Create Valuable Lead Magnets

Brand awareness vs lead generation? Compose.ly can help you do both by creating powerful lead magnets with generated content that helps establish your products and services and drive conversions.

Compose.ly’s team of highly-trained, expert writers can produce engaging content to help generate greater brand awareness and gated content for lead generation. When you need high-quality and valuable content like blog posts, articles, ebooks, or white papers, we’re ready to help.

Learn how to work with AI tools, not against them. 

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✅ The benefits and limitations of generative AI
✅ When to use AI tools and when you still need human assistance
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✅ 6 ways to leverage ChatGPT for content creation
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