Marketing's sacred rule of seven

April 2, 2014

And why your phone won't be ringing off the hook after only one mailing


Probably the biggest challenge with taking on any new client is when they haven't done much marketing and they're ready to add marketing to the mix to grow their company. They're revved up, thinking that if they spend some money on marketing, their phones will be ringing off the hook in the next few weeks.


Marketing professionals walk a fine line, needing to be enthusiastic for our clients while still establishing realistic expectations. I remember when I took on a landscaper as a client. He wanted to start with an over-sized postcard mailer. He committed to doing one mailing to start with. As much as I tried to convince him that he needed more than one mailing, or that November wasn't the ideal month to expect people to call for landscape designs, it was what he wanted to do. One November. Sigh.


I learned from that experience that the client isn't always right and that for the sake of my own reputation, I could no longer take on clients that were too timid to commit to more than one random mailing.With any new clients, my first step is to educate them on Marketing's Rule of Seven. Most professionals have already heard of this rough adage, but maybe don't share it with clients. It's really important that clients understand "the process" and how marketing works, so that they aren't setting themselves up for disappointment.


What is the rule of seven? The rule of seven is simple. It takes (roughly) seven exposures before someone notices your message. The seven exposures don't need to be in the same format -- for the landscaper, this could include his fleet of trucks people see with their large logo, his work crews with his employees all wearing the same t-shirts with his distinct logo, flyers, newspaper ads or articles, facebook posts, tweets, etc. People need to exposure to something (roughly) seven times before it's on their radar.


Now, does that mean the phone will start ringing once a client hits the magic number of seven? No. There are still other factors that go into a person's decision-making. Most often, it's timing. Does the person need this particular thing or service at this time?For the landscaper, he wanted his direct mail to focus on elaborate waterfall features they could design and install. Again, one mailing in the month of December. One direct mail impression was not enough. The timing was completely wrong. While I tried to suggest that people aren't looking to have their yards dug up and deal with contractors between Thanksgiving and Christmas (he was a single guy who didn't grasp that people had too much on their plates this time of year to be thinking about designing water features), this was the time he wanted to do it. Timing wise, sending a mailing towards the end of winter when people are thinking ahead to spring would have been more effective


Realtors are another group that depend on marketing to further their businesses. Realtors were easier customers in that they seemed to understand that not everyone who received a postcard mailer would be calling them. They know that not everyone is in the market to buy or sell a house. From personal experience, I probably received thousands of flyers and postcards from realtors in my mailbox for the six years I lived in my home. Many realtors didn't just send me seven direct mail pieces and call it a day; they sent me pieces at least once a month year after year. When the timing was right and I was looking to sell, I immediately had an impression of 3-4 realtors that I felt were the most established and professional in our area. Why? I was exposed to their constant stream of direct mail over several years, and it had gradually resonated with me. These were the realtors I called in for listing presentations when we were ready to sell.


The rule of seven combined with repetition and persistence will pay off in the long run. Clients need to know that their customers may not be ready for their services today, tomorrow or even a year from now. However, when they are ready, who will they call? They will call the companies that come to mind through all those repeated exposures to marketing messages. I encourage clients to stop thinking about whether or not the phone is ringing next week and have them focus on a long-term plan to increase consumer awareness and build a solid reputation over time. And, sometimes, I need to tell them this at least seven times before they believe me! ;-)

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