By: Jonathan Young, Senior Marketing Manager

It used to be called “awareness.” Or “Brand marketing. You know,” said the clever account rep, “like Apple or Mercedes.”

But, unless your company has been around for 40 or 130 years, you’re not going to establish that kind of a brand in your professional lifetime… even if you had the budget to try. (Or, if your company has been around that long and you aren’t Apple by now, it may be time to recalibrate.)

So, what’s a Chief Revenue Officer to do? How do you generate consistent website traffic, lower the barriers for Sales, and pave the way for those outbound BDRs? How do you get on the short-list for RFPs, product selection committees, or just click-to-buy transactions? There is still no denying: Brand and brand awareness are the X-factors in purchase decision-making.

The answer is a variation on that hoary old discipline: public relations. That’s right: PR. Not your grandma’s PR, but the new tactics carved from the dis-intermediated, direct-to-buyer agora of ideas that is the Internet.

Social and content marketing are the new force multipliers of conventional PR. It helps to have that big-bang overlay of major media coverage. And you should definitely play that ace every time you’re dealt it. But it better be a big story that’s worth the time and lineage of a Forbes or Fast Company. In the meantime…

A routine cadence of social posts, boosted as necessary, lets you appear to be everywhere at once. Because “everywhere at once” is in the eye of the beholder. Or, to be more specific, in the eye of your target audience. What you really want to be is in the right place at the right time, all the time.

The right place is wherever your target audience happens to be, and the right time is whenever they’re there. Marketing technology now allows you to do this. The drip-drip-drip of a well-targeted social program that points back to related content works on your prospect’s brain the way a river carves a canyon.

Your brand becomes a movie unspooling one frame at a time. All the prospects remember at first are the stories, the factoids, the nuggets of insight. But a well-placed product plug—like you’re about to see here from Media Frenzy Global—is also seeded, even if it doesn’t register. Over time, it will get noticed. And over more time, it will be remembered.

True: This might not hold the same promise of immediate brand gratification as shooting gerbils out of a cannon. But it is likelier to increase sales… for a lot less money, and sooner than it might take to carve a canyon.

And that’s the trap: While no one can afford to wait 40 years to see ROI on their brand investment, don’t expect it in a single quarter or even—depending on your product and category—in the same year. You are not driving sales; that’s your lead gen team’s job. You are driving influence. This is the funnel that comes before the sales funnel.

Use the front-end metrics—clicks, likes, and shares for social; views, downloads, and shares again for content—to steer your relentless pursuit of awareness. And do pre- and post- analytics of meetings set, proposals sent, and of course, sales, to measure effectiveness. The delta on that last metric will reveal your ROI.

Thinking of brand awareness as a funnel sets realistic expectations. Know you are nudging your prospects toward that magic moment when your efforts intersect their needs. That is the moment when your strategic market influence pays off.

And, yes, it’s still called awareness.