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Effective Marketing: Frequency and the Ideal Mix

By Fred Hernandez, Director of Marketing for Modern Postcard

Two common questions we get asked by our clients are, "What is the most effective way to advertise and market my business?" And, "How often should I advertise?" There are as many answers as there are ways to advertise. But recent research indicates that there may be solid answers to both questions.

The popular marketing theory is that constant communication via multiple channels is key in building lasting brand awareness and customer relationships that lead to purchase.

More than ever, marketers are interested in finding the right channels for reaching the ideal prospects. Traditional broadcast channels include TV, radio, newspaper and magazines. Direct channels included mail, phone and email. Now, we live in a world where social media marketing channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are all the rage. Most marketers will tell you that you need a mix of some or all of them. But how does one decide where to spend valuable time and resources?

Constant communication relates to frequency. The question here is how frequently should you advertise? The answer is debatable for sure. As far back as 1885, Thomas Smith (in his timeless book, Successful Advertising) advocated that it takes 20 exposures before a prospect buys what you're advertising. He said that the first couple times they don’t even see your advertisement. Other popular theories suggest that it will take multiple advertising exposures for a prospect to move from simple awareness all the way to committing to a purchase. The key is finding the right number of touches. Too few and you haven’t done enough to convince a prospect buy. Too much and you’re wasting marketing dollars. So how many touches are ideal?

A 2010 study by three university researchers published in the July issue of Journal of Marketing dealt with these two important questions and delivered interesting results. The study analyzed the purchasing habits of customers for auto dealerships via customer surveys and dealership records. It measured the impact of direct mail, telephone calls and email marketing on the purchases and spending of those customers. Additionally, it determined what the ideal frequency was when using the three marketing channels together.

The results of the study indicate that businesses should communicate mostly through direct mail and less via telephone and email. The ideal mixture, according to the research, appears to be 9-10 postal mailings, 3 phone calls, and 3-4 emails all over a period of three months. This provided the highest positive impact on the spending of the research subjects, thus being the ideal point for frequency and advertising mix.

According to co-author Andrea Godfrey, UC Riverside assistant professor of marketing, "Good old snail mail seemed to be more effective in the long term than phone or email." Also, Godfrey goes on to say that the results are applicable to all types of business, particularly service businesses.

From this study, we can conclude that of the three most popular direct marketing channels, direct mail shows a higher positive impact over time than phone or email. Additionally, frequency with direct mail has a more pronounced, positive impact over a higher number of touches.

One of the theories put forth by the researchers is that customers view physical mail as less intrusive than calls or email and thus, are more likely to sit and consider the advertising messages. These results offer strong support for including direct mail in your marketing mix. If you add direct mail, or already use it, remember to build in frequency to help move our prospects from awareness to actual purchase!

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