brand preference | craft Hugo wine + beer bottles on a shelf

You Need Brand Preference, Not Just Brand Awareness


Marketing is all about building relationships. The first step on that journey is to create brand awareness. Once you do that, you have the golden opportunity to build a relationship so strong that you then create brand preference. 


I was reminded of this in a blog post by Mark Schaefer. He wrote:


In marketing, top of mind awareness is good, but top of mind brand preference is essential because that’s what drives sales.


You can have top of mind awareness just by being loud.


To have top of mind brand preference, you must have meaning.


“You have to have meaning?” At first, that seems like a tall order that requires an existential Q&A. No thanks.


But in reality, we all have brand preferences. Name every brand of toothpaste you can think of. I’ll start:


  • Colgate 
  • Crest
  • Toms of Maine
  • Aim
  • Aquafresh
  • Oral-B
  • Jason
  • And all the other smaller brands you can find at Whole Foods. 


Out of that list, which do you immediately find and grab off the shelf? And which flavor do you prefer? And why?

It’s probably based on perception and experience. A positive perception of a brand can lead to that first sale. Once you have a great experience, future sales are all but guaranteed. 


In this blog post, I want to talk about both. How do you create a positive perception and then deliver a great experience? 


How to create a positive perception of your brand


As I’ve said a million times, your brand is what other people say about it when you’re not there. The good news is that a lot of those conversations can be influenced by you – what you say and what you do.


Show up


Even if you love a brand, it’s easy to forget they exist. That’s why you need to be consistent with your marketing and continually show up in your audience’s lives:


  • Send a weekly or monthly newsletter
  • Post on social media a couple of times each week – and then stick around to respond to comments
  • Go to events if that’s your thing
  • Email past clients just to say hi
  • Respond to the content other people are putting out there


Being visible is under-rated. It allows you start building those connections and making positive impressions – not just first impressions, but fifth and twenty-seventh.  


Repeat your tagline or value proposition everywhere, all the time


“Like a good neighbor, ________ is there.”


You didn’t even have to think before you automatically filled in the blank with State Farm, did you? And that’s because every one of their TV commercials ends with their tagline. 


What works for a big insurance company can absolutely work for a small business. Just like you need to show up consistently, you need to repeat your value proposition so people will automatically associate you with a few positive words.


My title has been Head Kick-Ass Copywriter for years. It’s as playful as it is memorable. If you didn’t already know me, you’d quickly gather that I am fun (which I am). 


Do what you say you will


Even before someone buys from you, you can show them that you always follow through. It’s so easy to have a great conversation and then forget to send them the link to the thing you talked about. Sending that link takes, what, 30 seconds? And in that 30 seconds, you are saying, “I am reliable.”


Don’t underestimate the power of doing what you say you will, no matter how small that thing might be. (This is also how you build brand preference.)


How to create brand preference


Now that people view you and your brand in a positive light, it’s time to wow ‘em. I don’t mean delivering a project and/or results on time and on budget. That’s obvious. It’s about the experience. 


Don’t just deliver, delight 


A couple of days ago, I got an email from a client that started out with: “I miss seeing you.”


Is there a better message to find in your inbox? A client misses working with you and can’t wait to get back on your schedule? In my book, no. This is the highest compliment.


I got this message because I like to go above and beyond. I problem solve with my clients. I brainstorm for them. I am proactive and always look for ways to improve their marketing. 


But even more important, we have fun doing it! 


(Fun is also highly under-rated.)


Once it’s apparent that you are looking out for your clients’ best interests, that’s it. You are now preferred. 


Check in and get feedback


This is something new that I’m doing thanks to my good friend and sales guru Kim Fredrich


Check in with your clients during or after a project to find out what went well and what you can improve. Listening to and implementing their feedback shows you genuinely care about their experience and want to make it better. 


Be the brand that cares, and you will be the brand that is preferred. 


Be honest


There are plenty of companies out there who will gladly take your money, whether or not you need their services or products. It’s happened to me, and I’m sure it’s happened to you.


This is why honesty is so refreshing in the business world. Being told, “No, you don’t need that service and here’s why,” is so rare it’s almost shocking.  


Because I am hard-wired with honesty and integrity, I have straight-out told prospective clients that they don’t need me, they need a different type of marketer or service provider. I have also scaled back ambitious marketing strategies that would have been lucrative for me but not valuable for the client. 


Doing what’s right for the client builds a level of trust that is hard to break. If you are trusted, you are preferred.


What else do you do to create brand preference?


I never pretend to have all the answers, so tell me – what do you do to become a preferred brand for your clients?


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