Editor’s note: Steve Henke is president of Harpeth Marketing, a Franklin, Tenn., marketing firm providing consulting and outsourced marketing services in the market research industry. He can be reached at 615-415-3980 or at steve@harpethmarketing.com.

In April I went to the Franklin Jazz Festival in Franklin, Tenn. I would not have known it was going on without reading a tiny little nugget in the sidebar of an e-mail. Sadly – as shown by the size of the crowd – I was not alone in that regard.

On Saturday, April 25 the Music City Marathon took place. The marathon is one of the 10 largest events of its kind in the U.S., with more than 27,000 runners. It’s a big deal. I only heard about it two-to-three days prior.

Why is that? Why do these important community events – with access to a lot of local marketing channels that you and I don’t have – do such a lousy job of promoting their presence? Is it because they’ve been around for a while and just assume that everyone knows about them? Is it a money or knowledge issue?

Yes, I’m drawing a parallel between these events and your business. Why? People can’t do business with you if they don’t know – or remember – that you exist.

So what steps can you take to build awareness and become known and stay known?

1. Company Web site: Everything starts with your Web site. It’s the first place a sales prospect is likely to learn about your firm. It needs to be great! Pay attention to SEO. Your site needs to show up in a Google search when a prospect looks up relevant terms.

2. Social media: There are two ways to build awareness on social media:

  • Make sure your posts and tweets deliver something of value to potential readers and do not sell anything.
  • Social media marketing is also about engagement. Starting or participating in a conversation on a relevant topic in a LinkedIn group is a great way to engage. In addition to getting your name out there, delivering good comments helps position you as a subject matter expert.

3. E-mails: E-mail marketing has been around for a long time. It is cost-effective, measureable and it gets results. Create and send a regularly-scheduled (start with monthly) e-newsletter that provides access to valuable information. If you make it salesy, you’ll lose readers.

4. Networking: Nothing creates a connection with a prospective contact quite like meeting in-person. But like everything else, there’s a process, particularly in the way you deliver your elevator speech.

5. Writing: Sharing your knowledge – on your Web site, blog or in an industry publication – is a great way to build awareness for you and your firm. Fresh, relevant content is also a key factor in SEO. By presenting useful information, you position yourself and your firm as experts in the area you’re writing about. Further, when done under the umbrella of an industry publication, you also benefit from an implied endorsement of that organization.

6. Speaking: Like writing, public speaking is another proven way of building awareness for you and your firm. Speaking has the added benefit of giving your listeners the opportunity to get to know you a little, to get a sense of your personality. And if the presentation is in-person (not virtual), they also have the chance to meet with you before or after the session.

7. Exhibiting: A conference is the only place in our industry where potential buyers come to you. By exhibiting at the right events and having a compelling booth presence, you can build awareness even with those who might not stop by your booth.

8. Advertising/listings: Advertising can have a broad reach that helps you connect with potential clients that might not have heard of you otherwise, or that you may have never heard of. Make sure you advertise in the vehicles – magazines, e-newsletters, Web sites, directories, etc. – used by your target market.

9. Get involved: Volunteer your time to help with conferences, member education or publications. Not only will you get to know other leaders, you’ll build a reputation as a doer and a giver. You’ll also gain insider information on things happening within the association.

10. Press releases: The vast majority of industry publications and blogs still accept press releases. Deliver information that provides value to readers (do not sell) and build and maintain a list of key editorial contacts in the industries you serve.

As you begin to build awareness, keep two things in mind:

  • There are two phases: getting top-of-mind with your sales prospects and then staying there. To be successful, awareness-building must be an ongoing initiative.
  • Be patient. Building awareness will take time. Stick with it. Be persistent and consistent and you will be successful.

Good luck and good marketing.