Friday, November 14, 2008

Rule of 7

One thing you learn from being in marketing for any length of time is that there are lots of formulas and rules for doing most anything. Marketers are great at coming up with six easy steps for this, 10 rules for that, and a dynamic 4-part matrix for thinking about anything else.

One of those rule sets I've always like was the Rule of 7. It basically says that if you want your prospect to take action and buy what you're selling, you need to connect with him or her a minimum of seven times in an 18-month period. Then and only then can you reasonably expect the prospect to fully understand what your product benefits are, and take action.

While I've never been able to find any study or research data to suggest that the Rule of 7 is correct, I do like the spirit behind it. In a world where it is said that the average consumer is bombarded by more than 3,000 marketing messages every day, it's easy to see why we need repeat exposures of our messages to gain memorability and traction with our audiences. It also suggests that there is something to be gained with time. Eighteen months is a long time in a marketers world, but it is short in terms of the quality of relationship between people.

I think there are three key take aways from this rule:

1. Think long term. Building a meaningful relationship with a prospect that fosters awareness, remembrance, and positive action takes time. When you approach your marketing communications with an 18-month timeline, they move from hard sell to intimacy. It causes you to think about quality and depth.

2. Frequency of contact is important. When you think of a family member and staying in touch with them, is seven times over a year and a half enough to keep them top of mind? I might suggest that seven is too little, but it depends on the relationship type. Regardless of the ratio of time and contacts, what is important is that you remain on the radar screen of your prospects. This means frequent and relevant communications.

3. Think dialogue, not monologue. This is an obvious point in a Web-enabled, socially-empowered, and technologically-linked marketplace. If those seven communications are just you talking, then there is no relationship being developed, no intimacy being gained, and no relevancy being learned. Make sure that your communications are both monologue and dialogue -- with emphasis on two-way conversations.

-- David Kinard, PCM

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