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  • Lead Generation vs. Brand Awareness: What’s the Best Bet for Your Business?

Want to understand the difference between lead generation vs. brand awareness? Try imagining you’ve walked into a networking event full of potential customers for your business.

Brand awareness is introducing yourself to someone and describing what you do.

Lead generation is asking for their email address so you can give them a free estimate.

lead generation vs brand awareness- meme featuring Jim from The Office

There isn’t an either/or distinction between the two marketing strategies. Brand awareness and lead generation work together to increase the number of people that eventually buy from you.

What’s important is to know how each one works and how to make them work for you. So in this article, we’ll clearly define both brand awareness and lead generation. Then you’ll see several tactics you can use to become the automatic choice for anyone needing what you buy.

What is brand awareness?

Brand awareness describes the level of familiarity a group of people has with your company and how well they associate it with the products and services you provide.

Do you hear a local HVAC company’s jingle in your head when you think of air conditioning repair? Can you recognize your favorite brand of soft drink just from the outline of its bottle? Do you know what this is and advertisement for:

brand awareness example - mcdonalds golden arches billboard series

Those are the effects of excellent brand awareness.

Brand awareness marketing campaigns focus on introducing your company to the people who may one day need what you sell. So instead of telling someone to buy now (conversion marketing), or asking for an action like filling out a form or making a call (lead generation marketing), a brand awareness campaign is more about getting your brand into the brains of potential customers.

Brand awareness tactics can be anything that exposes your brand to people. Sponsoring a little league team or posting a video on Instagram that shows the proper way to brush your teeth are examples. We’ve got more tactics and examples for you in a bit. But first, let’s look at how brand awareness increases your sales and protects you from the competition.

Benefits of brand awareness marketing

The goal of brand awareness is to make lead generation and sales conversion easier. Here’s the cool sciency reason why it works.

Humans are hardwired to be skeptical of strangers. It’s a natural defense against threats. That defense extends to protecting how we spend resources (a.k.a. money). When presented with the option of buying from a person or brand we know versus one we don’t, we’ll usually choose the known company.

Sales expert Bob Burg coined this the “know, like, trust” factor.

With some brand awareness marketing, you’ll get people to know, like, and trust your company before they ever buy from you—which unlocks several revenue-boosting benefits.

Create a need/brand association

When you want to keep a drink cool, blow your nose, or cover a cut, you may think of Thermos, Kleenex, and Band-Aid brands respectively. Those companies have built an incredible level of brand awareness. This means many people instinctively reach for those brands over others.

For your business, brand awareness means that when someone in your city has a leaky faucet or a strained back, they’ll be more likely to pick your company.

lead generation vs. brand awareness - graphic of 82% of people click results of familiar brands

Build trust with potential customers

It’s intuitive to think that people buy from those they trust. But in the age of ecommerce and digital deals, trust is harder to get and more important than ever.

A brand awareness campaign lets you build trust with future customers without needing to meet each one in person. Through awareness marketing, you’ll establish yourself as an expert in your field and show that you’re part of the community.

lead generation vs brand awareness - graphic of stat that 70% of people say brand trust is now more important

Protect against pricing pressures

There’s always going to be someone willing to sell a product or do a job for less. What keeps customers from choosing your low price competitor?

It’s the awareness that you offer a better value. You might share the extra steps you take to keep lawns greener. Or post a series of customer story videos that prove you do what you say you’ll do.

No matter how you do it, when people trust that you offer a better option, they’ll be more likely to call you even when someone else offers a lower price.

lead generation vs. brand awareness - graphic saying 46% of people would pay more from a brand they trust

Brand awareness strategies

There’s a nearly endless list of ways to build brand awareness. Heck, even just wearing a T-shirt with your company’s name on it is one.

Here are a few hand-picked brand awareness strategies you can start today.

Use word-of-mouth marketing

If you’re looking to build the know, like, trust factor, word-of-mouth marketing is a great place to start. That’s because people tend to trust recommendations from their friends and family.

Try creating a referral program that rewards people for recommending your company to people they know.

lead generation vs. brand awareness - screenshot of a referral program from a moving company

This program has a double bonus. You’ll raise brand awareness with new customers while simultaneously creating a stronger relationship with current clients.

Want to learn more about brand awareness? Get the guide >> Top Brand Awareness Strategies & Examples (+How to Measure Success)

Post helpful content on social media

Another way to build trust and grow awareness is by creating and sharing helpful content on Facebook, Instagram, and other social networks.

To do it, think about information that would help the people you want to attract to your business. That may be a list of events happening in town or a tutorial that teaches how to do something.

lead generation vs. brand awareness - screenshot of a video showing how to clean a dog's teeth

You can post this content organically or use social media ads to get more reach. And don’t forget to use hashtags to help your content get found by more people.

Want more? Here’s a list of social media marketing trends to follow for more awareness and engagement.

Get active in your community

When people see you participate in local events, they’ll get familiar with you and your company. Then, when it’s time to buy or hire, you’ll be their first choice.

There are probably plenty of in-person events you can get involved with. Charity 5K runs, stream clean ups, and town holiday events are popular.

lead generation vs. brand awareness - screenshot of a post showing a local event

But don’t forget that your community also exists online. Look out for fundraisers or virtual events that your customers will participate in. At the very least, share them on your social pages.

Pro tip: You can measure brand awareness outcomes to learn which tactics deliver the biggest bang.

What is lead generation?

Lead generation is the act of turning a prospective customer into a lead by encouraging them to take an action so you can connect with them more directly in the future.

Have you ever subscribed to an email list to get a discount or free trial? That was a lead generation campaign.

lead generation vs. brand awareness - screenshot of an offer to get a free guide

The key difference in lead generation vs. brand awareness is that in lead gen, you’re asking people to take an action. In brand awareness, you’re just offering a passive introduction.

Like their brand awareness counterparts, lead generation campaigns come in many flavors. You could have a popup on your website that sends a helpful guide to anyone who signs up for your newsletter. You could give free quotes to people who speak to a rep. You could even hand out stickers at an event in exchange for email addresses.

Let’s look at the benefits of lead generation before we get into more specific tactics and examples.

Benefits of lead generation

Lead generation is an important link between making people aware of your company and getting them to become customers. There are a few ways lead generation campaigns are an important part of your overall growth strategy.

Create a direct connection with prospects

Before someone is a lead, you have to rely on general forms a communication like ads or social media posts to reach them. Once they’ve become a lead you can communicate with them directly and in a more personal manner.

Let’s say someone signed up for a free lawn inspection using their email address. Now you can use email marketing to send them personalized coupons and service reminders that motivate them to make a purchase.

Since email marketing offers one of the biggest returns on your marketing investment, growing your email list through lead generation is a worthwhile growth strategy.

lead generation vs. brand awareness - graphic of the stat that every dollar spent on email marketing is returned 36 times

Improve lead quality

Lead generation doesn’t only help you get more leads, it can help you get better leads.

Better leads are people with a higher intent to buy from you. Lead generation campaigns can filter out low-intent prospects so your sales and marketing efforts focus on people that will be the happiest with your service.

For example, if you add a lead capture form on your website that offers “10 tax tricks every small business owner needs to know,” you can guess that most people who leave their email address are small business owners concerned with saving money on their taxes. Those are perfect candidates for your small business tax service.

Improve ad targeting

Through lead generation, you’re able to create a valuable list of email addresses that can be used to create look-a-like audiences on many advertising platforms.

Here’s how it works. You submit a list of email addresses to the advertising platform (Facebook, for example). The platform checks its database to find those email addresses, then shows your ad to people with similar characteristics to the original list.

Say you’re a real estate agent selling houses in a specific area. The advertising platform will send your ads to other people who may be in the market for a new home.

ad copy examples - facebook ad copy example for real estate

Audience targeting is the key to efficient online advertising. So lead generation is a valuable way to improve the efficiency of your ads.

Lead generation strategies

You can capture leads both on and offline using dozens of lead generation strategies. We’ve listed three that are must-dos for growing your business.

Use search ads

The vast majority of people start looking for a business on a search engine. So it makes a lot of sense to be as present as possible on places like Bing and Google. Search ads give you more exposure right where people look for solutions and let you target the topics people search for.

Search ads can show up at the top of search engine results pages.

lead generation vs. brand awareness - screenshot of a search results page

They’re sometimes called pay-per-click ads because you only pay the advertising platform when someone clicks on your ad (which makes them very cost-efficient).

Search ads are keyword-based, meaning you bid on keywords that you think your customers will search. The auction winners get their ads displayed. That gives you more control over who sees your ads and makes sure they have an interest in what you sell.

Offer free tools or resources

This is one of the most common lead generation strategies because it’s easy to do and it helps build trust. Just create something like a checklist or how-to guide that’s relevant to your business. Then offer it through ads or lead capture forms.

lead generation vs. brand awareness - screenshot of an offer for a free online tool

Place social media ads

Social media is still a great marketing channel for reaching new customers, but it’s not easy to reach new customers that don’t already follow you. That’s where social media ads come in.

Social media ads let you target very specific audiences. So if you want to reach cello enthusiasts with master’s degrees that live in Detroit and regularly purchase talcum powder, you can target them with social ads.

There are even ads on some social platforms designed for the purpose of gathering prospects’ contact details called Lead Ads. Just place the ad and include a compelling call to action phrase, then collect new leads for your business.

lead generation vs. brand awareness - 4 screenshots showing how to place an ad

When to use brand awareness vs. lead gen

Once you get the gist of both brand awareness and lead generation strategies, you’ll want to know when to use each.

Brand awareness is an always-on strategy because you always want to stay top of mind with your potential customers. That said, you may increase brand awareness campaigns in downtimes, like in winter for lawn care companies. You’ll also want to up your brand awareness efforts when you launch a new product or service or open a new location.

Lead generation campaigns work when there’s the highest intent to buy. For example, a high school tutoring service will ramp up lead generation ads a few weeks before school starts. Free lead generation tactics, like lead generation forms on your website, are fine to leave running all the time.

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