Taking A Fundamental View
While I always try to build awareness toward some of the innovative and trending marketing tactics that are being used by MSPs around the world, occasionally we need to hit the “reset” button and help you all understand why these things matter and how they fit into the bigger picture. It can be easy to get swept up in the excitement of something new, but it’s important not to go “all in” on a new tactic without making sure that you have some sound fundamentals in place.
Choosing marketing tactics can be incredibly confusing. Your budget is only so large, and deciding where to spend it will have a large impact on the overall success of your campaign. Spreading it around into too many places can be almost equally as damaging as putting it all into one. On the surface, things like SEO, blogging, video marketing, events, and email campaigns seem like they have nothing in common. Sure they are all marketing tactics, but how could you possibly choose which ones are the best choice for you? For now, forget about all of these tactics and what they consist of and let’s focus on one thing: “impressions.”
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Measuring Visibility w/ Impressions
The reason that we want to focus solely on impressions is because this is a metric that allows us to measure visibility, which is the single most important part of any campaign. All successful marketing campaigns will improve your visibility, and most of the time the more visible you are, the better results you are able to achieve. Not all impressions are created equal, which is why sometimes visibility goes unrewarded, but we will talk more about that later in the article.
I recently had a situation where a tree fell down on my property and I needed to call a tree removal company to come take it away. I started this process just like anyone would, as I whipped out my phone and typed in “tree removal” into Google. My behavior from this point forward was a little more interesting. Despite the listings being ranked by proximity and rating, I scrolled down quite a bit and decided to call the 7th ranked tree service. Why did I do this? It’s simple really. It was the only company that I had heard of on the list. I never used them before, but someone that works at the company parks their truck in their driveway which I pass almost every time I leave the neighborhood. These likely hundreds of “impressions” of an unoccupied truck for some reason made me more comfortable than the anonymous reviews left on Google.
If you think this is strange behavior, you are right, but that doesn’t mean it’s uncommon. Humans have a tendency to find comfort in completely made-up truths such as this one, and as a Marketer our job is to reverse engineer these quirks and use them to get people to buy products and services. The way I interpret most of my buying decisions and those that I observe of others is that high visibility often translates to lower risk in the mind of the buyer. With lower risk, comes less friction, and an increased likelihood of transacting. Was the tree service I used my best option? No, it probably wasn’t. I could have paid less, gotten better service, or a combination of both. However, for the reason I describe, it was the choice that I felt most comfortable with and it allowed me to resolve my issue sooner because I was comfortable enough to act. This is the effect that visibility can have on a consumer.
How To Evaluate Tactics
If we look at my situation in the context of how that company won my business, it really came down to a frequency of impressions over a long period of time. Simply having a logo on the side of a truck is a fairly weak impression on its own. I’m sure I have seen the trucks of the tree services ranked 1-6, yet none of them felt familiar to me. Had my experiences been different, so would my actions, but in this case seeing the same truck 100+ times over a relatively short period of time was enough to trick my brain into creating a false sense of familiarity with the brand.
Every impression, based on the medium and tactic used to deliver it, is weighted differently. Some impressions are stronger and therefore you need less of them to create the effect you are looking for. This is why you should evaluate your marketing tactics by the type of impressions that they generate and “weigh” them based on the following qualities.
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The most important factor when evaluating tactics is the strength of impressions that they produce. This is not easy to define, but I often look at it as the level of engagement that the audience has at the time of the impression. Subconsciously seeing a logo on the side of a truck is a very low-strength impression, whereas engaging with someone in conversation that represents a brand is a high-strength impression. If your tactic is going to produce low strength impressions only, you want to make sure that it makes up for it in one of the other qualities hereafter.
The effectiveness of an impression can vary greatly based on the relevance around the time that it occurs. This was especially evident in my case as each time I passed by that same truck I hardly registered its existence. This makes sense because their service was not relevant to me at the time that the impression occured. Through factors completely out of my control, this suddenly became relevant to me and thus the preceding impressions leading up to that moment became incredibly more important to my decision-making. This is proof that consumers don’t have to have an immediate need to get value out of impression, but it certainly helps if they do.
If you are evaluating a tactic that will be producing low strength impressions or those to an audience that is not currently relevant, then frequency becomes very important. Our brains are so full of information that as soon as something becomes irrelevant we immediately push it out of our consciousness. Increasing the frequency of impressions is the best way to regain this “top-of-mind” position where you can hopefully stay until the relevance increases.
Sometimes marketing tactics fail because the impressions lack clarity. Imagine that instead of a bright green logo of a tree on the side of the service truck, there were simply a few plain lines of text containing the name of the company. I may have seen this truck the same amount of times, but I may not have registered what the company did. In this case, I probably wouldn’t have connected the dots at the moment that these impressions became relevant to me and thus all of those impressions would have been wasted. Since different tactics are delivered in different ways, some are easier to deliver clarity than others.
Another way to evaluate your tactics is the cost of each impression that is generated. While it’s easy to see how many impressions are on a Google Ad for example, not every marketing tactic offers this level of insight. If a tactic is going to produce impressions at a high cost, you want to make sure that those impressions have a high strength and / or relevance. You will also want to make sure you protect that investment by also adding in some lower cost / high frequency impressions to the same audience.
As you can see by these examples, no single marketing tactic will have it all. There are always trade-offs. Where people often fail is that they commit to a tactic (or tactics) and they don’t understand the quality of impressions that they are generating. After reading through these qualities you now understand why purchasing low-strength, infrequent impressions will likely not produce results on their own. They will need to be combined with other tactics that produce high strength impressions or those that are delivered more frequently. What I can absolutely guarantee you is that right at this very moment, you are just a few impressions away from generating the interest of a new customer somewhere in the world. It’s simply a matter of delivering the right impression to the right person at the right time.