The Name Game: Can Your Business Become the Next Household Name?

Achieving name-brand recognition for your business may take time and plenty of hard work. A good place to start is increasing customer awareness of your brand.
November 12, 2014

So you want your business's name to be on the tip of everyone's tongue? These days, it seems one of the predominant goals of businesses is not just to increase awareness, but to rise to superstardom—to make your brand a household name. If that's your goal, you need to understand that the road to the top is a hard one. Being a household name is a title held by very few brands. Taking your brand and your business to that level takes passion and laser-focused effort. 

Successfully building awareness of your business doesn’t usually happen overnight, nor within a week or a month. It can take many years of hard work to become a recognizable brand. Winning market position needs to be your goal.  

Claim to Fame

Before you attempt to make your business a household name, a good first step is to try to establish yourself as a respected authority within your own niche. Whether you are looking to build your brand or have an amazing product to sell, the path is the same. You must amass all the knowledge you can about your merchandise and industry. The more information you have to share, the more you become a valuable resource. As an authority, the greater your prominence will be; more people will trust you and feel confident doing business with you. This will help build brand awareness for your company, and might even result in more customers.

Any business that’s ever succeeded was led by a visionary, someone who lived and breathed the product and the business’s culture. To begin spreading word of mouth on your company, start with these four steps:

1. Read and study everything you can to help your business become a leader within your industry. You'll soon realize there are many gurus in your field who are repeating the same sales pitches and theories. Although some may be respected, these pundits and their businesses may never achieve household name status. By studying verifiable success stories, you'll learn to separate high-caliber sources from those with no substance. In this way, you will develop your own strategies. Be sure to test everything you learn to make sure it's a good fit for you and your business.

2. Earn the respect of your peers by supporting those who have achieved the respect of others. There are those who have walked in your path before and succeeded. Seek out these people and learn from them, whether in person or by reading their words. Well-respected experts in your industry can become your mentors merely by your understanding of how they reached their goals, or by having personal, one-on-one conversations with them. A mentor relationship can pay off as you climb the ranks.

3. Attend networking events and meet others who want to know about your brand and your business. Take the time to join and participate in your local chamber of commerce or other networking groups. Speaking with new and existing connections gives you the opportunity to cite examples of your business success.

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4. Refine your business's elevator pitch and speak at any and every event you can. Practice your speaking skills, and work with a coach if possible. Service organizations such as the Lions Club, Kiwanis and Rotary International all are made up of businesspeople. They generally have mealtime meetings and welcome having outside speakers. A well-prepared talk on your business, a food tasting or product demonstration are well-received and often pay off in immediate and future sales.

Once you've gained confidence, as well as a growing number of fans of your enterprise, continue working on these four steps to increase your exposure and market reach. By using your networking and speaking opportunities wisely, you cancontinue to gain brand name recognition. This recognition can turn into popularity.

Expanding Brand Awareness

Assuming you're working hard and gaining ground on these four basic tenets to increasing awareness, it’s time to expand with additional tasks. I know: more work. Understand that the effort you put into building brand awareness can determine how wide your reputation will spread. Your time is an investment: Shirking or delegating your duties to someone else in the beginning won't teach you the ropes.

Advertising can help to build brand awareness, but today's customers connect with brands in more ways than just through traditional ads. Consider these routes to build your business's visibility: 

1. Web presence and SEO. I’m assuming you already have a website for your company. Most businesses, professions and merchandisers benefit from an online presence. The key is to make the site inviting to the customer.

It’s a necessity that a website for a store or restaurant features menus and products. But to help make your business stand out from the competition, be sure it contains additional pages that describe your company and, if applicable, your staff’s expertise. People need to know why they should do business with you. Spell out how convenient you are and how dealing with your business benefits the  visitor.

In short, tell your story. Have a page that answers any questions people may ask about your business. The fewer superlatives the better—just give people the facts. Trust is not built on your words alone, but on what others say about you, so be sure to include testimonials from satisfied customers.

Be sure to use keywords that relate to your brand. You’re going to have to pass the Google E-A-T test (expertise + authoritativeness + trustworthiness), so your site will be ranked as high as possible. Remember, no spamming with unrelated information.

If you have time, it’s nice to maintain a blog linked to your website. Use your blog to share news and content related to your business, as well as provide your take on industry trends.

2. Social media. There are many social platforms to choose from, and, while the top ones such as Facebook and Twitter reach a wide swath of people, others are frequented by demographic segments. Since Facebook and Twitter have the broadest audiences, I’d recommend joining them and participating. Twitter is about conversation, so talk to people. Follow those who may be targets for your brand and follow others in your industry to build your awareness and community.

To decide which social networks to have in your arsenal, check the demographics to see if the people who visit the site represent your target audience. A Google search with the site’s name and the word “demographics” will reveal this information. The Internet changes by the minute, so keeping track of this data is worth the time to find where your customer socializes on the Web. Once you have more time to experiment, you can test your brand on the latest platforms. You may be able to find new customers within a previously undiscovered audience.

For a brick-and-mortar business, set up a Google+ profile. Customers are seeing these profiles when they perform searches, so you want to be front and center. If you are a professional, be sure your LinkedIn page is up to date.

Keep in mind that an abandoned social media account rarely signals a strong brand , so don’t just sign up and leave. Take the time to fill out profiles as concisely and completely as the space will allow, and participate in the social interaction. Your page should immediately tell your story, leaving customers with a clear impression of your business. 

The more people who see that you're active and leading the way in social media, the more your brand’s authority will rise in visibility. With that, more customers should be buying what you're selling.

3. Public relations. I’ve always been a big proponent of PR, but in the traditional sense it is generally best handled by professionals. Nothing annoys writers more than poorly written releases and continual pitches. Be ready to spend some money when you finally have an announcement or a newsworthy story to tell. Until then, keep it simple.

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Set up a free Google Alert for your brand and your company name. This way, whenever Google’s spiders find a reference to your business on the Web, you'll get an email notification. This opens the door to new connections as well as keeping you apprised of how your business is being mentioned so you can respond. There are low-cost media monitoring services you can use as well, such as Mention or Brand24.

PR can also be successfully performed in social media through your own posts as well as those from influencers and brand advocates. Find influencers in your industry by searching relevant keywords on sites such as Klout.com and LittleBird.com. Research the influencer’s social content and be sure it is a fit for your customer. Once you have found credible, well-respected influencers, you can initiate a relationship so they can help spread the word on your business.

Fifteen minutes of fame will most likely do nothing for your company. Building a household name calls for increasing and sustaining awareness over a long period of time. Keep up the work and stay on top of the trends in your industry. Always learn and continue to stay relevant.

Marsha Collier is listed as a top influencer in lists from Forbes and Huffington Post. She’s also an author who has sold more than 1 million books on the topics of e-commerce, social media and online customer service. You can find her current books at CooleBayTools.com and Amazon.com.

Read more articles in our special section on Getting New Customers.

Photos: Getty Images (2), iStockphoto