It’s All In the Timing: marketing effectiveness depends on “what” and “when”

We’ve talked about consistency in your marketing message. Now let’s ease the discussion toward timing in your marketing: when you reach out to your clients. Can you see your practice, and your marketing, in this real-life situation?

Is This You?

I read a fabulous book last week: The Invisible Gorilla, by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons. It’s more about how our minds work (not like we think they do) than timing, BUT, one of their examples grabbed my marketing attention. Chabris and Simons discussed the experiment of the internationally acclaimed virtuoso violinist, Joshua Bell, playing “incognito” at DC’s L’Enfant Metro station. Mr. Bell played six classical pieces — the kind that have been considered beautiful, heart-rending, spiritual, awe-striking for centuries — to almost 1100 passers-by on their early morning rush. Guess how many paused to listen to this world-class soloist who has played every major concert venue in the world (including Sesame Street)? Seven actually stopped. Twenty seven gave money, mostly on the run. About 1,070 people rushed on by without a pause. This could be you. The 1100 passers-by could be your clients.

What’s Going on Here?

The authors of The Invisible Gorilla think one possibility for people not noticing Bell was because they didn’t expect to see Joshua Bell at a DC Metro stop. For the same reason most pedestrians, bikers, and cyclists are hit by cars: the drivers didn’t expect to see them. The second possibility is that the commuters weren’t in a mind-space to be receptive to Bell’s “message.” They’re part of the early morning rush to get on the Metro. They’re thinking about their commute. They’re thinking about being late. They’re thinking about work. They are wrapped up in the Right Now; they’re NOT thinking about nice, pleasant things that are right, smack in front of them.

What’s This Got to Do with You?

Your work is a nice, pleasant thing. Your clients spend a lot of time wrapped up in the Right Now. A well-written, targeted message might capture their attention for a second or two. A well-written, targeted message delivered at the Right Time will get a much more satisfactory response.

Time Is on Your Side

Part of keeping your practice alive is reaching out to your clients — both current and prospective. Since you’ve got to market to your clients anyway, you may as well be effective.

First, a refresher on three basics:

  1. It is generally understood that clients need to hear about a special or new service at least three times before they “hear” your message. In practice, it’s closer to seven-to-ten times.
  2. An acceptable lead-time for a small business’s marketing effort (grand openings, new therapist, Christmas) is three months.
  3. The rate of positive response goes up considerably if your marketing message is delivered in at least three different forms (postcard, flyer, newsletter, email, phone call, business card, conversation, signage, presentation, word-of-mouth, etc.). I’m bringing up all of this now especially because … well … I hate to say it … but … you need to start planning your holiday marketing over the summer. Starting your gift certificate marketing in October isn’t going to be as effective as starting your campaign in September.

Don’t Waste Major Amounts of Time on Minor Things.

This is the second best piece of advice you’re going to read today. There’s something to be said for doing it right the first time. BUT, you do have to strike while the iron is hot. If you’re going to mail postcards to 500 people, you could spend hours picking and choosing and agonizing. Hey! It’s a postcard already. Pick a good one that you know your clients will like and get on with it. It’s more important that the card gets to your clients with the Right Message at the Right Time.

Test, test, test. And then test some more.

When do you get the best response to your e/mailings? When you know this answer, and you act on it, you get a better response. Do 80% of your respondents contact you within three days of receiving your postcard? A week? Do you get better response to your emails sent out on Tuesday morning? Sunday evening? Do your professional clients respond best to messages they receive during the beginning of the week? How about your retired clients? Since you’re going to send out e/mailings anyway, test to discover when the e/mailings are the most effective. Take notes. When you launch the big campaign (Holidays) you’re going to get a better return.

Pay Attention to the Calendar.

The calendar is your friend. Pay attention to it. Make it work for you. Market with it (back to school, long weekends) or market around it (no one does anything week of July 4th). Calendars can be a source of inspiration for “reasons to celebrate”: full moon, Cara Barton’s birthday, Diwali. St Sebastian is the patron saint of cranky children, you know… Understand that decisions requiring deep thought rarely get made in August or December. So… Doing any co-marketing for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Tax Day, or Mothers’ Day? Look at your calendar. Then flip back three months (see “basic” #2) and see what kind of time you really have.

Don’t wait for a Great Idea. Good Ideas are just as profitable.

This is the first best piece of advice you’re going to read today. The most helpful lesson I’ve learned in business is that your customers don’t know what you meant to do. They don’t know what could have been. I’m telling you as a professional customer: I don’t need sparkles and a mariachi band to influence me to call you. A clear message delivered to me on a Tuesday or a Saturday will do. Thanks.


PS: We strongly suggest putting The Invisible Gorilla on your reading list. It’s written for us, real people, and is highly entertaining. And you feel smarter for it. Before you read, check out: the selective attention test; the test that started it all.