In a 1997 episode of the Seinfeld sitcom, Jerry and the gang wrestled with the notion of “good naked” vs. “bad naked”. What does that have to do with business? Well, that same critical eye might be applied to marketing exposure, specifically to the concept of “top of mind” awareness.
If you’re the marketer, of course, being “top of mind” is a good thing, right? If you’re the marketer’s target, however, too much information is, well, TMI. So where’s the middle ground? How can a marketer — and that should include all business professionals — create awareness that’s generally respected and positions the sender as a trusted product or service provider?
Provide Inherently Valuable Content
The emperor may have no clothes, but content is still king. In fact, in today’s barrage of information, the thoughtful crafting of content is more vital than ever. Think of it this way: with so many information channels — from print to electronic media, from visual to auditory, from experiential to subliminal — each of us must turn on filters. We must weed out anything that doesn’t seem important, relevant and timely. The marketer, of course, would love for every email to be opened, every direct mail piece to generate a response, every ad to be viewed and every word of every article to be read. Reality, of course, demands more reasonable expectations. Industry standards for email “opens” are generally between 15 and 20 percent. Successful direct mail response rates typically run in the one to two percent range. Your print ad’s success depends on many factors: design, placement, frequency, etc. Want to improve your chances of making strong connections? Be relevant, timely and interesting.
Here’s how to make that happen:
Respect Your Audience
Especially for a service-oriented business, while it’s certainly appropriate to remind people of the business you’re in, what often works better than the hard sell is providing information, tips, and relevant guidance based on your experience and expertise. Remember, you’re asking your audience to grant you little corners of their lives, if even for just a minute or two with each message. Make sure your content respects them, values their time, and rewards them for that privilege.
Know Your Audience
To craft successful messages you must first understand your targets. By segmenting your overall contact list of friends, family, acquaintances and associates into meaningful sub-groups, you can enhance relevance by sending different messages per segment. For example, you could classify your contacts as Suspects, Prospects, Key Prospects, Allies, or Clients. A “Suspect” might be an acquaintance, friend or someone who could benefit from, but has not demonstrated a near-term interest in your product or service; while a “Prospect” could be someone who has either expressed some interest or could be perceived as potentially needing your product or service in the not-too-distant future. A “Key Prospect”, on the other hand, would be someone who has both express interest AND has a near-term need. “Allies” would be those persons who could influence others to utilize your product or service (Allies can, naturally, also be called “Influencers”). “Clients,” of course, are just that, but can fall into one of two camps: current and former. Obviously, as interactions, interest and relationships change, your targets can move into different segments over time. It’s great to be able to move your targets from Suspects to Clients, but recognize that not all of your contacts will — or even should — make that journey.
Choose Your Media
What’s the best way to connect with your targets? In person? By phone or texting? Via email or Facebook? On the printed page? Some or all of the above? Knowing yourself and your audience — and most importantly, understanding their media preferences — should give you a sense of which platforms are most appropriate. Keep in mind that as your media platform changes, so should the scope and tone of your message; whereas in a print article like this I might have roughly 800 words to play with, Twitter will limit me to 140 characters. Choose your media and your messages wisely.
The Bare Bottom Line: A Ten-Step Action Plan
So…in the context of the information above, here’s how you can best expose yourself (think good naked “top of mind”) to your targets:
1. Know yourself (what you’re good at and why targets should contact you when they need your product or service)
2. Determine your key branding messages
3. Identify and regularly contact your targets by segment
4. Determine the right frequency of these contacts by segment
5. Determine your best communications vehicles
6. Plan and carefully craft your messages
7. Work your plan
8. Get help if needed (it can save you time and money)
9. Follow through
10. Believe in yourself
Easy? Of course not. But if you need help or advice, contact me. And stay tuned as we continue to strip away the mysteries of branding, marketing communications, and… success undressed.