If you've ever taken a marketing course or worked with a PR firm, you've likely heard about the “Rule of 7”. This is simply a rule of thumb that a consumer must see or hear about your product or service an average of 7 times before he or she will act on it and buy. Although there is currently some debate about whether 7 is still the magic number, especially in an online setting, the overall concept of reaching people through different mediums at different times is still valid and can help you gain new customers you otherwise might not have reached. These statistics are backed up by research. According to Ro7.com:
80% of sales are made on the 5th – 12th contact
Executive consultant Dori Thompson talks about how many impressions of ads the average person sees in a day in our current, media-overload world. She throws out a number of 3,000.
This includes advertising from all mediums:
It's no wonder that small businesses have to work harder and hard to reach customers and gain a share of the market. Add to this ad overload the fact that most people have short attention spans and a hundred other things competing for that attention and you have to grab their attention, grab it fast and make an impression. You have to accomplish this in more than one way, multiple times and you must use a branding strategy that keeps the name of your company in their mind.
Love or hate them, K-mart's new advertising campaign is a perfect example of how to make an impact, make it quick and reach new customers. Even though the ads aren't readily available on television, they are so funny to many that they are reaching customers in multiple ways online.
Kmart's Brilliance Times 7
Many of my friends actually hate Kmart's latest ads and you may be one of those people, but let's study them anyway as a case in point on how to achieve the rule of 7 in an entertaining way that reaches new customers.
Ship My Pants
This commercial was released online and quickly went viral. Although Kmart released it online in one location, the ad made people laugh because of the play on words and they began to post it on Facebook, tweet about it on Twitter, send it via e-mail and write about it in articles around the web. This meant that people were seeing the ad over and over, or were seeing mention of the ad over and over. It was also in trending topics on these sites because of its sudden popularity. It has over 18 million views on YouTube alone. That's a pretty good reach for a 30-second commercial.
Although it is unclear at this point if the ads will help or hurt Kmart's bottom line, as some people find the ads offensive, the ability to create a single ad that online users then promote for you cannot be ignored. I suspect they are seeing some success as they have recently released a new ad called “Big Gas Savings” with a similar play on words.
Can You Reach Them in 5? 3? Or, even 1?
Does it really take seven encounters with information about your product before the person will consider buying it? That's debatable. Some people will see one banner ad, click on it and buy your product. It stands to reason that the higher the cost of the product, the more trust you'll have to build with the buyer. If the customer has never heard of your company, she isn't likely to buy a luxury yacht from you because she saw a banner ad on a website. On the other hand, if you offer a magazine that is under $10 and she sees an ad, she may purchase it immediately.
Since what is considered a “high” price point can be different for each person, it is best to try to reach your customers in as many ways as possible. Here are some steps to help you figure out how to accomplish that. Most businesses cannot afford television or radio ads when first starting out, so we will focus on less expensive options.
Remember the Local Market
Even though your product may be a global product that is of interest to people form all over the world, don't neglect your local marketing efforts. Approach local companies that might have a reason to utilize your product or service. Send a press release to your local newspaper and they may write a story about you (free advertising). Take out a billboard ad or post an ad in your local theater. Put flyers in your neighbors newspaper boxes. Give speeches to local organizations and join some networking groups. Get the word out about your business and what you have to offer.
Exchanging ads with business people who have complimentary but not competitive businesses to yours is a free and easy way to get your name in front of new customers for the first time. You may choose to exchange ads with those in your local networking group who have online newsletters, for example. Your best connections will likely come from online friends. Join groups, chat on boards, get to know people and see which newsletters fit your own business philosophy. When you have a list of three or four, approach those business owners and offer to exchange newsletter ads. Be careful here. Only approach a business you are comfortable promoting and recommending to your own customers.
Paid banner ads are another way to get the word out about your product and get another impression in front of those customers. Seek out sites that cater to the type of customer you want to reach. If the site has a customer demographic of middle class women aged 18-24 and you want to reach 40-somethings, then that isn't the best site for you to take a banner ad at. However, if you want to reach 22 year olds, then you're in the right location. Remember that you want to make an impression at least 7 times on each customer. With this in mind, try to talk the website owners into giving you two months for the price of one or a discount if you take out a three-month banner ad. The site's visitors should see your banner each time they visit.
Does that same site have a blog? Offer to write a guest post. This will reach the consumer yet another time. So, she might read about you in the site's newsletter (1 impression), see your banner ad three different times (3 more impressions) and then see your guest post (1 more impression). You are more than halfway there to selling your item and having her as a customer. Who knows, maybe she is more a Rule of 5 kind of girl and you've already won her as a lifelong customer.
Do the sites you are advertising on have forums or places to ad comments? Get involved. Be careful here, though. Spammy posts are really frowned upon. If you do not have something legitimate to add to the conversation, it is best to not comment. However, if you do have something intelligent to say, go ahead and post. Just don't advertise your produce. It's fine to sign it something like John Doe, CEO of Whatever Company. However, it is not okay to write something like this: “If you like my post, come check out my gizmo gadget at www.gizmogadget.com.” Anything along those lines is a big no-no when it comes to forum netiquette. People on the Internet are looking for informational value. If you remember that, you'll be fine.
7 Is NOT a Magic Number
It may all sound really simple, but 7 is not a magic number.
You can reach a customer a million times and if you don't have a solid marketing message, she will only get tired of seeing your company name. Before you ever try to reach a customer 7 times, you should have a solid plan in mind for a message you want to give to the consumer. Remember:
You want her to understand why she needs this product.
You want her to see that your product is better than any other out there.
You want to show why you offer value for her money.
You want to show what is unique about your company out of any competitors out there.
If you can do these things and reach the consumer multiple times, you'll be reaching more new customers than you ever expected.
About Lori Soard
Lori Soard has been working as a freelance writer and editor since 1996. She has a bachelor's in English Education and a PhD in Journalism. Her articles have appeared in newspapers, magazines, online and she's had several books published. Since 1997, she has worked as a web designer and promoter for authors and small businesses. She even worked for a short time ranking websites for a popular search engine and studying in-depth SEO tactics for a number of clients. She enjoys hearing from her readers.