Whether you’re a recently funded startup or a business that has been operating for years, building brand awareness will always be a top priority.
According to one recent study, 89% of B2B manufacturing marketers said increasing brand awareness was a primary goal for their content marketing tactics—edging out both sales and lead generation.
In startup marketing, in particular, brand awareness is everything. Think about it from the perspective of your reputation: you’re the new kid on the block, entering a crowded marketplace and trying to serve an audience with increasingly fractured attention.
You’ve got to do anything you can to stand out, and marketing is the best way to do it. But in addition to carving out a space in your industry, building brand awareness also brings an additional benefit: anticipation.
People won’t just take your word for it and immediately buy your product or service. They need to be convinced. If you can make them legitimately excited for the idea—if you can start before your product is even released and get them to mark “launch day” on their calendars—you’ll come out all the better for it.
Your brand’s image is long-lasting
Simply put, your brand is your promise. There’s a reason why studies estimate that 45% of a brand’s image can be attributed to not just what it says, but how it chooses to say it.
For a startup, creating an awareness campaign that both a) lets people know you’re coming and b) tells them what you plan to do when you get there checks the boxes of “brand awareness” and “anticipation” at the exact same time.
Remember that your brand is going to outlive whatever your initial offering is. You’re not just trying to sell today’s idea; you’re trying to sell tomorrow’s, too. You need people to stay with you long after they’ve made their first sale, which is why the “brand awareness” side of the coin is so important.
Anticipation builds momentum
To say you’ll be strapped for cash as a startup is quite an understatement. You’re living in a world where every cent counts.
Even so, people are going to need time to discover your product or service. If you wait until launch day to begin this process, you might get where you need to be eventually—but it’s going to take a lot longer. Momentum doesn’t just happen; it needs to build. If you time things right, you can make sure you hit your crescendo on launch day (or as close to it as possible).
Focus on creating visual marketing collateral that doesn’t just “engage” people but actually gets them excited. Build presentations and other visual collateral that contrasts their life before your brand and after it. How will the “after” be better? How will the “after” be easier? These are the questions you need to answer to build excitement.
Think about what you’re trying to do as a Venn diagram. The circle on the left is your product or service. The circle on the right is the daily life of your ideal customer. That space in the middle where the two overlap? That’s the sweet spot you’re trying to fill. If you can find innovative ways to communicate that in the run-up, you’ll make people aware of your brand and get them excited for your launch at the same time.
Guide the court of public opinion
Give your new followers a place where they can discuss what you and they have to say. Whether they’re responding to your launch campaign in a positive or negative way, you need to know what the general response is. Plus, there’s never a better chance to do some course correcting than when you hear feedback straight from the horse’s mouth.
In terms of brand awareness and anticipation, this also creates something of an echo chamber effect. After a certain point, excited customers become brand ambassadors and start spreading your message alongside you. This takes some pressure off your organization while customers do some heavy lifting for you.
Prime your audience
At its core, building brand anticipation is about priming your audience before you launch your business. It’s a strategy with two goals: let people know you exist and tell them how you’re going to change their lives.
Rather than wait until your product/service is absolutely perfect before doing any marketing, you should start thinking (and acting) on this as soon as you can. It’s far better to have a preemptive awareness campaign, even a small one, than to keep everyone in the dark until you’re “ready.”
Why? Because the dirty little secret of entrepreneurship is that you’ll never be ready. Your product or service will never be perfect. To think otherwise is a fool’s errand. Fortune favors those who boldly strike out where others are too scared to try. 
Instead, start building brand awareness as soon as you can. Today. Right now. Don’t just sell the product—sell the benefits your brand will bring. Then by the time your product is ready, your customers will be, too.