Hey! How are you? How's your organization doing? Really? Hm. Yeah. Well, you probably won't be interested in this, but I've got a great way to make people more aware of your brand. Lots of people. Oh, you are interested? Okay, great. I mean, are you sure you want to do this? I don't want to push you into something that you're not 100% sure about, because I'm on your side. Okay... if you're sure...

Give me $25,000 and we'll get the ball rolling.

What? Well, brand awareness costs money, and this level of brand awareness isn't cheap. I'm making nothing on this, you know - this is all overhead for the camera guys, the web developers, the talent, plus purchasing the ad spots. I'm only even doing this for you as a favor - normally this would cost twice as much...

What's that? How many sales will you get out of this? Well, that's hard to say, exactly. I mean, this campaign will go out to about 25,000 people, so a buck a person, that's pretty good, isn't it? What? You want to have some kind of way to tell how many of these people come in and buy because of this campaign? Well, you don't want it to be too sales-y, you know. This is brand awareness, we're talking here. If it's too much like a pitch, it will turn people off. Huh? What's the point of awareness if it doesn't generate sales?

Excellent question. The answer is: none.

'Awareness' is used by some ad and PR agencies to pay for vacations to Cabo when winter gets on their nerves. From their perspective, there's no downside: They've gotten your message out to the number of people they said they would, you have no way of proving them wrong, and they've made a tidy sum without having to deliver a single sale, because that's your job. Is it their fault if you have a message that doesn't stand out, or isn't clear, or the people who saw the spots aren't ready to buy yet, or or or?

Yes. That's what you pay them for, isn't it? If they can't deliver new Customers, what good are they?

To avoid setting your money on fire, awareness should always and only be this: The top of your sales funnel. Because of this, making certain that your message is clear, stands out from your competition, and is sent to the right demographic at the right time are all key. Web stats are a great way to measure this, because they are collectible and fairly straightforward. Print, radio and television are disappearing because they have a much harder time proving reach and Return On Investment. And if something can't prove ROI, why are you wasting your money on it?

Once you are confident that your campaign will reach the right audience at the right time and the reach has been verified (by someone other than your agency; Alexa is great for online stats, the Radio Advertising Bureau will help you figure out frequency and schedules for that outlet, and TV information can be found here and here.

So now that you've got the top of your sales funnel defined, what comes next?

  • Awareness - Potential Prospects know who you are, what you stand for, and what makes you better than your Competition.
  • Consideration - Potential Prospects compare measure you against your competition.
  • Preference - Your message has convinced potential Prospects that, if and when they need your product(s) or service(s), you are where they'll go (unless, of course, they see a more convincing competitive message between now and then).
  • Purchase Intention - They call, look at your website, or stop by your place of business. From then on, it's up to your Sales staff to record them as a Lead, get them in the door, and close the sale.
Like all sales funnels, every stage contains fewer potential Customers. This is why knowing how many people you're starting with - and verifying that number as many ways as possible - is key. Your agency should be able to provide you with a fairly accurate estimate of the conversion rate for each stage. If they can't, you need someone with more metrics expertise.

The idea that your message should not contain some means to identify whether or not the campaign is what brought a particular Prospect to your door, website, Facebook page, or phone is nonsense. Just because someone came in doesn't mean they did so because of your campaign - unless your agency can prove otherwise, these folks probably would have come in, anyway. Again - you should only ever pay for what you actually get.

The easiest way to do this is via a response tag - a special offer at the tail end of your message that is specifically trackable to a particular medium for a particular campaign. The response tag and offer for each medium should be different. This will help you determine where to spend your money most effectively next time, and where your message either didn't get through or wasn't effective.

Of course, you should be sitting down with your marketing manager, sales manager, and agency rep(s) to review the metrics and adjusting according on a regular basis, and comparing each campaign to the last one, and also to the most effective one. Your results should improve over time. If they don't, it's your agency's job to figure out why, and your marketing manager's job to take corrective action.

(This doesn't mean you can't still beat up your sales manager. We all know they expect it, and what fun would life be if you couldn't complain about sales?)

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