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Frequency Is the Key to Advertising Success by Jeffrey Moses
When designing and placing ads, many small business owners search for the magic bullet: an ad that is so compelling that customers will immediately pick up the phone and call to make an appointment.
The reality is, however, that advertising is a process, not a one-time event. Advertising research has shown that a consumer usually needs to see an ad five to seven times before responding. This is what the ad industry calls the rule of seven.
Following are ways to incorporate the rule of seven into your advertising efforts:
Maximizing a marketing budget is simplistic: the best way is to run the least expensive ads possible to reach the widest audience of likely buyers. For example, if your company repairs boats, general newspaper advertising may prove ineffective from a cost standpoint, because only a small percentage of readers will be boat owners. Ads in regional boating magazines, however, may be much more effective, because although each ad will cost more than the same sized newspaper ad, almost every reader of the magazine would be likely to use your services.
Research has shown that ads in highly targeted media produce better results. In fact, a general rule states that when nearly every reader of a magazine or newspaper is a likely buyer, you can effectively run a full-page ad. A larger, well-designed ad will help your ad get noticed from among the clutter, and help move you toward the rule-of-seven threshold.
Another marketing aspect to consider is how often a specific ad should run. Clearly, it's better to be noticed by buyers seven times in seven months, rather than seven times in seven years. But there are so many ads being run in all media that it's not possible to know exactly how often a general reader, viewer or listener will notice a specific ad.
When working with a limited budget, there's always the choice of advertising frequently for a short period, or advertising infrequently over a longer period. It's often better to spread an ad campaign out so that customers are continually seeing the ads, as opposed to saturating the media for one or two weeks and then not advertising again for a year.
But even when spreading a campaign out for an extended period, with fewer ads running per week or month, it's possible to place ads during the same day of the week (in the case of newspaper or radio advertising), and even during the same time of the day (in the case of radio). Theoretically, this approach would maximize the chance that the same potential customers would encounter the ad five to seven times during the extent of the campaign.
Going Beyond the Rule of Seven
Some of the nation's largest TV advertisers run a new commercial dozens or hundreds of times daily. Clearly, their experience (usually based on tested results) has shown that for their purposes it's best to bombard the media in hopes of reaching the rule-of-seven goal as quickly as possible. If these large companies have found this approach successful, some small companies may, too. Before you consider this approach, however, you may want to see how many ads your budget can handle.
On another note, it's always tempting to abandon the ad campaign before it really gets going. The company owner may read the newspaper daily, noticing the ad each day and think that people are getting tired of it. But the general readership is not noticing the ad every day because there are too many competing ads. In other words, don't jerk the ad too soon until you receive feedback that sufficient numbers of potential customers are seeing your ads.
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