One of the biggest hurdles for brands, especially in crowded marketplaces, is brand awareness. Obviously, people aren’t going to buy your product or service if they don’t know who you are. That’s why it’s so important to make sure that your brand and its message are being seen by your potential customers and that you’re targeting the right audience and engaging them over time. Being exposed to your brand or company once or twice isn’t likely to convert potential customers. You need to make sure your brand is in front of these audiences constantly, so it’s top of mind when they are ready to purchase.
Social media marketing, in its ubiquity, is an excellent tool to do exactly that. And I know, because it’s worked on me.
Last summer, I began seeing ads on social media for a brand and line of products I’d never seen before. At first, the ads were small but still impactful: beautifully curated images of different products, videos of real customers using the products, gifs, tutorials and more.
As the months passed, the ads became a fixture in my Facebook and Instagram feeds. I recognized them instantly whenever I saw them, and I could recall the brand by name. In late October, the ads began to vary from what I’d grown used to. Now, the messaging was focused on teasing a big upcoming sale. As the weeks passed and Black Friday grew closer, I saw more and more ads in my feed.
Then the sale arrived. And I caved. I bought one of their products.
Over the course of months, the brand had slowly built up recognition, knowledge and interest about their product line, for me and other users targeted with the ads. By the time I made my purchase, I was already familiar with how to use the product, how simple it was to use, and how satisfying the results would be. And when the product lived up to the expectations set by the ads I’d seen, I went back to the website and bought two more products.
While an investment of a few months’ worth of social media advertising just to make one sale (or three) might not seem worth it, it’s likely I wasn’t the only new customer roped in by this strategy, and it’s likely that other (possibly less stingy) users targeted by these ads purchased from the brand even earlier than I did—and again during the sale.
The key to this strategy is the buildup. If I had only been hit with ads about the sale in the days leading up to Black Friday, it’s likely I wouldn’t have purchased anything. Why would I be interested in discounted products I’ve never seen before from a brand I’ve never heard of? By targeting me so early, I had invested enough time and thought into viewing the various ads that, by the time the big sale came, I was ready to buy. And I bought. And bought again. And I already have my sights on what my next purchase might be.
Growing this kind of brand recognition and loyalty, before a purchase has even occurred, is worth more than the eventual sale you might make. Garnering this level of investment from customers fuels the cycle: These customers are more likely to write enthusiastic reviews and share their own experiences with the product on social media, perpetuating the marketing cycle.
If your goal is to grow your audience, especially in the months leading up to a big sale or an event, like a trade show, you have to play the long game. If your biggest sale or event of the year is in November, you should begin your targeting months in advance. You don’t want to have to do the work of introducing customers to your brand, convincing them to buy and making the sale all in the span of a few days. When the time of the sale or trade show comes, you want customers coming to meet you, already knowing they want to invest in your company, products or services. By setting that process in motion months in advance, you’ll be set up for success later.