Does an increase in Awareness increase Revenue?

I was asked recently if I knew of any empirical data that shows the relationship between an increase in awareness and an increase in B2B sales. I don’t and so I started by searching online. I found anecdotal evidence at best. Then I started to question my conventional wisdom that awareness comes first. That is, if potential buyers don’t know we have a solution to their problem, how would we ever get considered? Awareness drives interest, right? I came to the realization that this kind of thinking is flawed, especially selling technology products. This is not the 70s with salesmen in white shirts, blue suits and red ties dialing for dollars. We are in an era where the majority of buyers find us by using their favorite search engine. It’s no longer a shouting match of advertising and direct marketing. This type of buyer behavior isn’t new. What’s new is that it has become mainstream. So if buyers seek us out, how could a contemporary awareness campaign work? Are there situations where this makes sense or is it a waste of money?

Why do we “generate awareness”?

The question to be asked is where does the need to generate awareness come from:
  1. Sales makes a call to a prospective buyer and the buyer states they are unaware of the company and/or product;
  2. Our product portfolio has expanded and the customer base is unaware we can solve other problems for them; or
  3. We are introducing an innovative new approach to solving a problem
We can measure awareness through blind awareness studies. We can obviously measure revenue. The challenge is connecting the two measurements to draw a causal conclusion. If an increase in awareness drives interest, then it would be logical to conclude that interest would correlate to revenue. The stone tablet of marketing says it’s so, yet I am humbled by the fact I can’t point to any reliable body of work that supports it.

The order of operations has changed

Let’s assume for a moment you want to buy a waterproof digital camera because you are taking your family to Hawaii for a vacation and it would be cool to have underwater photos (interest). You could go to a camera store in your town, but most likely you’ll search online using the keyword phrase “underwater cameras”. You’ll review the search results, perhaps refining them a little to get a list of manufacturers that provide underwater cameras (awareness). Then you’ll follow the links to the manufacturers web sites to get an idea of what each camera can do and at what price. Before you purchase, you’ll look for reviews of the cameras to see what others are saying about it (evaluate). Finally you’ll try to get the best price based on how you like to buy, and then make a purchase (buy). If you really like the product (or not), you’ll write a review (reference).

What are the implications to marketers?

The implications are significant to marketers. It means we need to shift hard toward developing great content that buyers can find with a message that is clear and compelling. Every day we have buyers that go in and out of our sales process and we don’t know it’s happening. I call them lurkers. Unlike window shoppers – which implies they aren’t going to buy – lurkers have an intent to buy but they haven’t engaged with us yet. They are researching our product along with our competitors and finding references through what others are commenting about (good and bad). The other implication is measurement. Marketing teams are asked to demonstrate a return and for some traditional activities, like generating awareness, this is getting increasingly more difficult to justify.
David Daniels

David Daniels

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