Why consistency is the key to successful marketing
By Robyn A. Friedman
For the past 10 years, Claudette Brodeur has been doing the same thing every Monday morning. She prepares a two-page, direct-mail piece advertising her business by personalizing it on her computer and then sends it out to new prospects.
As an interior designer focusing on window treatments, Brodeur knows her target market is homeowners. So she consistently sends both new and existing homeowners her advertisement and then follows up with similar pieces every four months for a year.
Her response rate: 2%.
“It’s a great response,” said Brodeur, owner of Claudettes [CQ] Decors in Jacksonville. “I’ve perfected it to the point where I just don’t mess with it. I’ve found out what works.”
The ultimate goal
Brodeur’s goal—and the goal of any small business marketing its product or service—is to gain top of mind awareness (TOMA), which occurs when customers think of you first when they are ready to purchase. TOMA is essential for any successful marketer. After all, the average consumer is bombarded by literally thousands of advertising messages every day.
To make sure yours is noticed and resonates in the minds of prospects, you must not only be consistent in repeating your brand message, but also in making sure your message is uniform, unique and identifiable—whether it’s in print, online, in a sales pitch, on a billboard or even in an on-hold message script.
“The average person sees 3,000 commercial messages a day, so it’s important to keep your
message in front of customers,” said Robert Smith, chief executive officer of Champion Media Worldwide, a public relations and advertising firm with offices in Jacksonville. “Most successful marketers use the ‘Rule of Seven’ or until their customers buy or die.”
Smith advises small business owners to commit to marketing to prospects at least seven times. “The first one or two times, they may never even notice your ad or commercial,” he said. “Studies show that most people buy after the fourth or fifth contact, so if you only contact them once, you are leaving a ton of money on the table.”
Consistent marketing is also the key to successful branding—using words, designs or symbols to give your company, product or service a unique identity and distinguish it from the competition. Brands need to be both recognizable and memorable, so marketers need to repeat their message enough times to achieve that goal.
Tips to achieve consistency
If you’re planning to advertise your product or service, keep the following tips in mind to achieve consistency:
Repetition is the key. Keith Kessler, president of Kessler Creative, a Jacksonville-based,
direct-marketing firm, said that consistency varies depending on the business. “The $64,000 question is, ‘What is the consistency?’” he asks. “Is it monthly, quarterly? There are a lot of variables.”
Kessler said that at a minimum, small businesses should advertise in print or send a direct mail piece at least quarterly and preferably monthly. “The industry standard is that it takes eight different touches before somebody will recognize your brand and act on it,” he said.
Don’t just rely on one form of advertising—it takes a mix. A good marketing campaign depends on several strategies that work in tandem. Don’t just advertise; include public relations and social media strategies as well. “These days we have too many
advertisements that compete for our attention, and people ignore them,” said Nancy Rossiter, assistant professor of entrepreneurship at Jacksonville University. “What works these days is buzz.”
Rossiter said that she advertised a business she owns in a local magazine every month for a year, with little success. But after the magazine wrote an article about her business, she was inundated with new customers. “People ignored our paid advertisements, but paid attention and acted upon the buzz that was created from the story,” she said. “And the story was free.”
Don’t expect immediate results. Once you take the time to put together a marketing plan, stick with it. The insertion of one ad in a magazine might work to bring in new business, but in most cases, it takes consistent advertising or marketing to achieve results. Brodeur advertises for at least four or five months in a new publication before assessing whether her ads are working. “If it doesn’t make the phone ring, then I just walk away,” she said. “You can’t just give it one month.”
Mistakes happen. Don’t give up. If you’re doing a direct-mail campaign, for example, start with a sample of 1,000 rather than mailing 10,000 without knowing if it works. Smith once spent nearly $5,000 on a promotion that bombed. “Always remember to test small,” he said. If your strategy isn’t working, try tweaking it. Sometimes it takes a while to determine the exact mix that works for your business.
Make sure your message is right. No matter how consistent you are, your marketing won’t work unless the message you’re disseminating is good. The last thing you want to do is consistently market the wrong message. To get the best bang for your marketing buck, consider hiring a professional to make sure you get it right the first time.
Maintain consistency across platforms. Consistency isn’t important only in terms of repeating your brand message. It’s also important to be consistent across platforms. In other words, your print and online advertising should have a consistent look, feel and message—as should your other forms of marketing communications: sales scripts, on-hold messages, social media and more.
“Consistency allows you to be easily recognized,” said Mary Fisher, owner of Mary Fisher Design in Jacksonville, a full-service marketing firm. “If you design an ad that looks one way in one publication and then another publication’s ad is totally different, people won’t know it’s the same company.”
Bruce Newmark has successfully incorporated that strategy into the marketing plan for his business, MarkOne Financial, a Jacksonville-based
indirect auto lender. “Our sales force uses a script that communicates consistently the kinds of things that we’re also going to communicate in our media advertising,” he said. “That way, our message stays consistent.” Newmark also strives to maintain a consistent marketing message among the different products under his brand.
Make sure your advertising reaches your target market. Make sure that your message gets to the people who are likely to purchase your product or service. “All the money in marketing isn’t going to be worth a hill of beans if it doesn’t get into the right hands,” said Kessler. “Spend time—and maybe a little money—to identify who your actual customer is.”